How the Arctic Ocean is being polluted by tiny plastic fibers from our clothes
January 13, 2021 at 02:01
Helen Regan , CNN Written bymicrofiber strands, washed into the ocean from laundering our clothes or from industrial wastewater, are polluting one of the most remote regions on Earth.
Tinystrands,washed into the ocean from laundering our clothes or from industrial wastewater, are polluting one of the most remote regions on Earth.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications , found that 92% of those microplastic particles are miniscule synthetic fibers -- with most of these being polyester.
Researchers say the size, shape and type of the material is consistent with the fibers lost from clothing and textiles through laundry and textile production.
These tiny synthetic fibers can enter the water supply in wastewater from factories or from people washing their clothes.
Wastewater treatment plants are able to catch much of it but the rest can eventually flow into rivers, waterways and, ultimately, the ocean.
Seawater samples were taken from 71 locations across a vast swathe of the Arctic region.
The area stretched from Norway, through the North Pole into the central Canadian Arctic, down through the archipelago, and then west into the Beaufort Sea, straddling the US-Canada border.
Synthetic fibers were the dominant source of microplastics at 92.3%, with the majority consisting of polyester.
Concentrations of microplastics were three times higher in the Eastern Arctic (above Western Europe and the North Atlantic Ocean) than they were in the Western Arctic (above the Western Canadian shoreline and above Alaska).
The eastern fibers were also 50% longer compared to the west and also appeared newer and fresher -- suggesting that most fibers encountered in the Arctic Ocean originated from the Atlantic.
That's not surprising, researchers said, given that more water flows from the Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean than it does from the Pacific.