Is microfibre pollution a growing ecological problem?

30th of May 2016
Is microfibre pollution a growing ecological problem?

Scientists are warning that microfibre products are becoming an ecological concern in freshwater systems.

They claim that the tiny synthetic fibres from microfibre products could prove as much of an issue as microbeads.

Microbeads are microscopic abrasive balls that have an exfoliating action and are present in many cosmetic and cleaning products. They become flushed into waterways where experts say they may enter the food chain and harm the environment.

A North American media station recently broadcast a forum discussing the environmental hazards of microbeads, which have been banned in the US. But the scientists debating the issue also pointed out potential problems with microfibres.

According to environmental science professor Dr Danielle Garneau, samples from Lake Champlain on the US-Canada border have revealed evidence of microfibres in 90 per cent of all species tested including perch, smelt, bass and cormorants.

Garneau, who is studying microplastic pollution in Lake Champlain, said: "What we're seeing now is an awful lot of synthetic fibre moving into the water and then up the food chain. And the majority of the stuff in these freshwater systems are fibres as opposed to the beads, which have been banned."

Lake Champlain committee staff scientist Mike Winslow told the forum that microfibres can attract toxins which can enter the food chain via organisms that ingest them. "These small particles are a junk food, both literally and figuratively," he said. "They're filling the stomachs of the organisms but not providing any nutritional value."

The media station broadcasting the debate - Mountain Lake PBS - serves both the US and Canada and covers the Adirondacks, the Champlain Valley and Quebec.



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