“The thing that truly surprised me the most was that every salp, regardless of year collected, species, life stage, or part of the ocean collected, had plastic in its stomach,” says biological oceanographer Jennifer Brandon.
Salps are small transparent sea creatures that feed constantly on nanophyto- or microzooplankton while swimming in all of the worlds seas and oceans. The microplastics they ingest are as small as 10 micrometers, smaller than the width of a human hair. The 100% ingestion rate is alarming since salp digest their food in two to seven hours.
Brandon warns, mini-microplastics in the salp could make their way into the human body through the seafood we enjoy that eat salp. More than one-third of mini-microplastics found were synthetic fabric fibers from polyester or nylon. Car tires were the second-leading source, which release plastic particles as they erode.
Clothing, especially those made from synthetic fabric, sheds microfibers when washed. The microfibers are small enough to slip through washing machine filters, dryer lint catchers, and municipal water treatment. Synthetic fibers contribute to microplastic pollution in the nation’s waterways since they cannot degrade.
Reduce microplastic/fiber pollution with these tips:
1. Wash less. Wash clothes only when they’re visibly dirty or smelly. Sponge or dust off little messes and air out if it doesn’t really need a wash.
2. Do full loads at coolest temperature to get clothes clean when washing is necessary. This helps preserve fabric and colors.
3. Line dry. Dryers and heat break down fabric faster and increase shedding.
4. Choose natural fibers. Cotton, wool, linen, hemp, silk and lyocell are natural biodegradable fabric fibers.
5. Can’t part with the fleece pullover or nylon running tights? Try a guppybag or coraball to help capture the microfibers.
Graphic: Statista based on research at Plymouth University, UK
It’s official, microplastics have invaded the world – including the human body. As microplastics travel through our world’s waterways, they reach the remotest of areas – and people. National Geographic details more…