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Clothes Made with Synthetic Fabrics Are Polluting the Ocean

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Cloths for a Change page, Comming Clean Campaign page.

While synthetic fabrics are washed they shed bits of plastic that can end up in the oceans.  Manufacturers are not required to test fabrics for their environmental impact.  More than 65 percent of plastic in the ocean is in bits that are less than a millimeter thick.

Scientists have found an unexpected source for the rising load of tiny plastic bits in the oceans: Washing machines.

When you wash fleece jackets, polypro running shirts and other synthetic fabrics, a new study found, miniscule threads of plastic seep through filters and escape into the environment. Marine microplastics can penetrate the cells of even the tiniest organisms, raising all sorts of health concerns for both sea creatures and the people that eat them.

And while washing machines are far from the only source of tiny plastic pieces in the oceans, the study suggests that there might be a need for a new generation of clothing made from natural fibers or synthetic versions that hold together for a longer time, said Mark Browne, an ecologist at University College Dublin.

For now, textile companies are not required to test their products for durability or plastic-shedding potential.