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Microfibers coming from unusual places, end up in our waterways

Posted: 2:45 PM, Jul 29, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-29 14:46:38-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Plastics have taken over the world & unfortunately, our environment is paying the price. They are everywhere & seem to be in everything.

But wait, there's more that we can't even see -- much smaller pieces called micro & nano plastics. They can be as thin as a single human hair. Those are called microfibers.

"We have more and more evidence that there's microfiber I found in the water you drink. And then they can get into you, meaning incorporate into your cells itself, if they're very small. They can be absorbed by your gut. And they can carry disease," says Dr. Serge Thomas, who works with the new Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University.

He says microfiber concentration levels are highest here in the U.S. when compared to other countries. And if its in our drinking water, that means its also in everything else we drink including beer & soda.

And this is how microfibers can get into our water system: Every time we wash a load of laundry, our clothes could be shedding up to 700,000 plastic fibers. As a comparison, that's about the size of the front of this pack of gum. Can you imagine sending that much plastic into our waterways with every wash?

Most new fabrics are made out of plastic. It's light weight, warm, & inexpensive. And all those beautiful exercise clothes we live in? It's stretchy & comfortable. But, it's made out of polyester or acrylic & that is plastic.

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Brittany Rubelowski is the manager of Thoughtful Threads in Naples. She says it's time to go back to natural fiber clothing.

But that requires a huge commitment. And if you don't want to give up a large part of your wardrobe, there are still a few easy things you can do to help the environment.

--Wash your clothes at lower temperatures; it's not as harsh on the fabrics & less likely to shed fibers.
--Put your clothes in a special filter bag before washing; one brand is called a Guppy Bag.
--Make sure you have a full load in the washer; that produces less friction between the clothes.
--Reduce spin speeds if possible; not as much shaking equals not as much shedding.
--Hang dry your clothes; hey, it saves money too!
--Use a front loading washer; tests show that top loaders release 7 times more fiber.
--Buy fewer polyester garments, choose natural fibers like cotton & hemp.
--Keep your clothes longer; 1st washings shed more plastic, and again, this is a money saver!

"We have to understand that when we put a pollutant out there in nature, it very often comes back as a boomerang in our face," says Dr. Thomas.

Every action has a reaction. We are seeing it vividly right here in Southwest Florida with the blue-green algae problem. Taking care of our planet and protecting this paradise we all live and work in has to be a top priority for everyone, not just a few.