Tuesday , January 12 2021

Pollution: from our washers to the Arctic

Polyester microfibers torn from our clothes by our washing machines can find their way to the heart of the Arctic Ocean, researchers concluded, analyzing water samples from as far away as the North Pole. .

According to the study conducted by the Ocean Wise Conservation association, in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, it is possible to find microplastics all over the Arctic Ocean, 92.3% of which are in the form of synthetic fibers. Polyester, ubiquitous in our modern clothing, accounts for 73.3% of the man-made fibers spotted in samples that came from 71 locations in the North American and European Arctic.

On average, each sample contained 40.5 particles of microplastic per cubic meter of water.

However, this average hides a very large disparity between the samples. Those from the eastern Arctic, fed by Atlantic waters, were about three times more contaminated than those in the west, fed by the Pacific. The concentration could even exceed 150 particles of microplastic per cubic meter in west and east Greenland.

The researchers therefore concluded that the synthetic textile fibers found in the waterways of the countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean, from discharges from washing machines and, ultimately, from sewage, can reach travel up to the Arctic Ocean by sea currents or by air.

“This study demonstrates, once again, the vulnerability of the Arctic to environmental changes and pollution from the south,” summarized the lead author of the study, the professor at the University of Colombia. Briton Peter Ross. According to him, the data assembled by his team can help guide politicians in shaping policies to tackle pollution generated by microplastics.

The study was published Tuesday by the prestigious journal “Nature”.


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