Plastic from synthetic clothes threaten food chain

Microscopic plastic debris that are released from washing synthetic clothes are accumulating in the marine environment.

London: Microscopic plastic debris that are released from washing synthetic clothes are accumulating in the marine environment and could be entering the food chain, a study has warned.

Researchers traced the microplastic to synthetic clothes, which released up to 1,900 tiny fibres per garment every time they were washed; a news channel reported citing the US-based research network National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

An earlier research showed plastic smaller than one mm were being eaten by animals and getting into the food chain.

The findings appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

"Research we had done before showed that when we looked at all the bits of plastic in the environment, about 80 percent was made up from smaller bits of plastic," said co-author Mark Browne, an ecologist now based at the University of California.

Browne, a member of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, said the tiny plastics were a concern because evidence showed they were making their way into the food chain.

"Once the plastics had been eaten, it transferred from the animals` stomachs to their circulation system and actually accumulated in their cells," he told BBC.

In order to identify how widespread the presence of microplastic was on shores, the team took samples from 18 beaches around the globe, including Britain, India and Singapore.

"We found that there was no sample from around the world that did not contain pieces of microplastic," Browne said.

"Most of the plastic seemed to be fibrous. When we looked at the different types of polymers we were finding, we were finding that polyester, acrylic and polyamides (nylon) were the major ones that we were finding," he said.

Browne`s team carried out a number of experiments to see what fibres were contained in the water discharge from washing machines.

"We were quite surprised. Some polyester garments released more than 1,900 fibres per garment, per wash," Browne said.

"It may not sound like an awful lot, but if that is from a single item from a single wash, it shows how things can build up."