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Your laundry could be hurting the oceans, study finds

71 per cent of microplastics in Metro Vancouver waters come from clothing

When’s the last time you thought about how you wash your clothes?

It’s something you should consider, according to a joint study from Ocean Wise and Metro Vancouver, because the way you do your laundry could have negative effects on ocean wildlife.

The study, published last week, found that 71 per cent of what ended up in the region’s wastewater plants were fibres such as polyester and modified cellulose, or rayon.

READ MORE: Scientists find microplastics in B.C. water samples, launch campaign

READ MORE: Research needed on impact of microplastics on B.C. shellfish industry

Although wastewater plants filter out nearly 99 per cent of the 1.8 trillion microplastic particles that go down the drain in Metro Vancouver each year, a “significant amount” still makes it into the oceans.

“Every time clothing is washed, tiny strands of fabric break off and go down the drain,” said principal investigator Dr. Peter Ross, vice-president of research at Ocean Wise.

“Research has shown that microplastics in the ocean are being mistaken for food by zooplankton and fish, raising concerns about impacts to their health.”

The study authors found that people could reduce how much their clothing sheds in the wash by:

  • Doing laundry less frequently when possible
  • Using front-loading laundry machines
  • Using cold water
  • Using less soap
  • Installing a lint trap or lint filter on your washing machine’s discharge hose

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katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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