Sat, Oct 29, 2011 - Page 9 News List

Laundry lint polluting the world’s oceans

Dryer lint is sneaky — microscopic fibers made from polyester or acrylic are found in both treated wastewater and sludge

By Elsa Youngsteadt  /  ScienceNOW

ScienceNOW sent a copy of the study to Patagonia, one popular maker of fleece sweaters. No one was able to review the study and comment before deadline, but spokesperson Jess Clayton said that Patagonia does intend to follow up on the findings with Polartec, its primary supplier of fleece.

Christopher Reddy, an environmental chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, says it’s still hard to tell where lint pollution fits in in the spectrum of environmental problems. It won’t “trump CO2 in the atmosphere” as a priority issue, but he calls the new results “provocative” and says they should trigger follow-up studies that measure the effects of the fibers on marine life.

“It never ceases to amaze me that we continue to find more pollutants entering the coastal environment,” he adds. “What else is out there we may be missing?”

This is adapted from ScienceNOW, the daily online news service of the journal Science.

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