[3/16/17] Comfortable clothes are emerging as a source of plastic that’s increasingly ending up in the oceans and potentially contaminating seafood, according to Gulf Coast researchers launching a two-year study of microscopic plastics in the waters from south Texas to the Florida Keys.
Yoga pants, Patagonia’s cozy jackets, sweat-wicking athletic wear and other garments made from synthetic materials shed microscopic plastic fibers — called “microfibers” — when they’re laundered. Wastewater systems flush the microfibers into natural waterways, eventually reaching the sea.
“Anything that’s nylon or polyester, like the fleece-type jackets,” University of Florida researcher Maia McGuire said.
When McGuire set out to study the kinds of plastic found in Florida waters, she expected to mostly find microbeads — the brightly colored plastic spheres the US government banned from rinse-off cosmetic products in 2015 because of the potential threat to fish and other wildlife.