Todays microfibers must be or should be first understood as to what they actually are. If you are like most people, you would first think that with a prefix like micro, its meaning has to be small, that a microfiber would be very small fiber. The exact definition found commonly throughout most reference sources for a microfiber (or microfibre) can be either a synthetic fiber or a natural fiber finer than one denier or decitex/thread. This is smaller than the diameter of a strand of silk (which is approximately one denier), which is itself about 1/5 the diameter of a human hair. This means that you are not likely going to be seeing them on a daily basis. In fact, we can not see them at all.
1. Our Oceans
You most likely seen or heard that our oceans have a severe plastic problem: Recently quoted by an authority that an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the world’s oceans from land. Also, according to the World Economic Forum, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
The numbers are staggering: There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea.
In reading this, it is the “wow factor” of ocean trash. That this may not even capture the scope of the problem, how do you actually measure the amount, at depths man has not seen. But beyond the shock value, just how does adding up those rice-size fragments of plastic help determine the impact of our future health.
This is beginning of the problem, where most of the plastic is smaller than a grain of rice, digressing to the size of microfibers. These so called microfibers have been showing up in the smallest of bellies, to largest of the aquatic population. These plastic fibers are inter winding inside of these bellies and through the process absorbing toxins and chemicals that are either becoming harmful to them, effecting their natural growth or becoming harmful to the upward food chain including us.
2. Our Seawater
Our seawater is facing the same similar problems, and sometimes more visible by mankind, as it is the entrance to many of our ocean waters. The disposal of these microfibers continually flowing into the seawater.
3. Our Drinking Water
Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analyzed by scientists for an investigation by Orb Media. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibers.
The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibers found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates.
European nations including the UK, Germany and France had the lowest contamination rate, but this was still 72%. The average number of fibers found in each 500ml sample ranged from 4.8 in the US to 1.9 in Europe
According to this new research published by Orb Media, tap water and plastic bottled water in cities on five continents is contaminated with microscopic plastic fibers. Scientists say they don’t know how these fibers reach household taps, or what their health risks might be, but experts suspect plastic fibers may transfer toxic chemicals when consumed by animals and humans.
The number of fibers found in a sample of tap water from the Trump Grill, at Trump Tower in Manhattan, was equal to that found in samples from Beirut, reads the Orb report. Orb also found microfibers in bottled water, and in homes that use reverse-osmosis filters. 83 percent of samples worldwide tested positive for microscopic plastic fibers.
4. Our Food
Well if it is in our water, then surely it is in most of our food. When cooking or baking, water is one of those ingredients used. Most of us have some kind of filtration on our refrigerators, but probably not good enough for these microfibers to be caught. By reading the above report the microfibers passed by the reverse osmosis system. If like most people who are into eating seafood, for sure you have eaten many microfibers as well.
If you think you are safe in any way, you are not, by just eliminating the sea food category, as studies have shown that salt, and even honey have found to have microfibers in them.
By 2100, scientists predict the amount of microplastics we consume could reach 780,000 per year, with 4,000 of those being absorbed into our bodies. I wonder what the FDA has to say about what our recommended daily allowance for microfibers.
5. In our Air
Our environment is full of microfibers that blown from here to there by natural means, weather, wind or even our air conditioner. Recently, which might surprise you, the results published in the March article of Environmental Pollution, found humans consumed about 114 microfibers each meal from simply the household dust that from the air, on your dinner plate. Approximately 20 minutes of your eating time. This resulted from the environment we live in, the air we breathe, and the regular shedding of microfibers as they are worn away.
Types of Microfibers
The most common types of microfibers are made from polyesters, polyamides (e.g., nylon, Kevlar, Nomex, trogamide), or a conjugation of polyester, polyamide, and polypropylene.
Microfibers are used extensively is used to make mats, knits, and weaves for apparel, upholstery, industrial filters, and cleaning products.
The shape, size, and combinations of these synthetic fibers are usually selected for their specific characteristics. That could be for their softness, toughness, absorption, water repellency, electrostatics, and filtering capabilities.
Microfiber textiles tend to be flammable if manufactured from hydrocarbons (polyester) or carbohydrates (cellulose). They also emit toxic gases when burning, more so if aromatic (PET, PS, ABS) or treated with halogenated flame retardants and azo dyes.
Their polyester and nylon stock are made from petrochemicals, which are not a renewable resource and are not biodegradable. However, if made out of polypropylene, they are recyclable (Prolen).
Microfibers that are made from petrochemicals includes polyester and nylon which are not biodegradable.
How did we get here
It started back in the 1990 when microfibers were created and introduced to the textile industry, and since has found it way into our environment. Its many uses has become a way for many industries to produce the articles we so demand today. Unfortunately the waste of these articles, that do not break down due to their very nature, otherwise they are not biodegradable.
Yet they wear off, shed, thrown away, or disposed into our waterways, or disposal plants
Just in the United States alone, it is estimated that there 89 million washing machines doing an average of nine loads of laundry a week. A load of washing can provide anywhere from 1,900 fibers to 200,000 per load. Though our wastewater treatments in our country catches a large portion of the fibers in the processing of sewage, the solids in which those fibers are captured are often applied to our land as fertilizer. So, now we’re adding microfibers to our soil and to our water at the same time.
Eliminating fiber pollution is a much bigger, much more challenging objective. About 60% of all clothing on earth is made of polyester, a form of plastic derived from fossil fuels, in part because synthetic materials perform like no other fabric in existence for their water wicking, breathability, and stretch factors.
Health and Microfibers
What is particularly alarming regarding our health, microfibers contain and/or absorb toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PBCs), bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, and polyhydromatic hydrocarbons. POPs
Although there’s limited data showing how microfibers affect the health of sea life, and you and I who eat it, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or much imagination to connect the dots.
Studies show that we pass about 99 percent of these microfibers through our digestive track. My concern is where the 1 percent gets left off at. Are we collecting these microfibers, is there inflammation from the toxins left in our body from those passing through.
In the sea life, these microfibers are weaving their own garment inside of them. Perhaps we are doing so too.
Todays Health Comment
Microfibers are certainly not going away soon, perhaps never will they go away. With the great demand for their uses, we can only hope that our creative world we can come up with a solution to this inevitable crisis. Man has created this problem and it does not look to bright for the future, unless we take some serious steps to stop loading our environment with these microfibers. We need t0 create filters for their disposal. Uses of our laundry to prevent the continuing flow in our waterways. Our disposal into the oceans…somehow has to become safe. Look forward to your comments and reviews.
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