Microscopic fibres created during the laundry cycle can cause damage to the gills, liver and DNA of marine species, according to new research.
Scientists at the University of Plymouth exposed the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis), found in various locations across the world, to differing quantities of tumble dryer lint.
They demonstrated that increasing the amount of lint resulted in significant abnormality within the mussels’ gills, specifically leading to damage of tissues including deformity, extensive swelling and loss of cilia. In the liver, the presence of lint led to atrophy or deformities leading to loss of definition in digestive tubules.
The increasing concentration of fibres also led to a reduction in the mussels’ ability to filter food particles from the seawater and a significant increase in DNA strand breaks in the blood cells.
Scientists say the precise causes of the effects are not wholly clear, but are likely to
Mojca Zupan was a corporate lawyer doing just fine—“comfort-zone-fine,” as she puts it—in 2016, when a museum exhibit changed her life.
The Plastic Garbage Project depicts the “the origins, life cycle, sense, and senselessness of plastic products.” “I saw these big microscopic pictures of microfibers,” Zupan says of the tiny grains of plastic that slough off synthetic textiles and seep into bodies of water. “It’s ridiculous. Washing machines pollute so heavily.”
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She did some research. Technically, a solution for catching microfibers existed. But awareness of the issue was low. “I didn’t get the feeling that something would be done about it in the near future,” Zupan says. “I became determined to change the washing machine industry.” Within a year, Zupan had started PlanetCare and begun selling the company’s first product, a filter that