If finding a hair in your food is your idea of a dining disaster, a recent scientific finding may push you into full-on panic mode when it comes to unwanted stuff in your grub. It turns out that we’re all chowing down on microscopic pieces of plastic released from an unlikely culprit: fleece clothing.
According to NPR, tiny pieces of plastic (known as “microplastics”) shed from fleece vests, jackets, sweaters and coats and have been found in everything from table salt to fish to crops.
FWx reports that in seafood alone we are ingesting more than 11,000 pieces of microscopic plastic a year. And according to a 2011 study in Environmental Science and Technology, 85 percent of all human debris found on beaches is actually an accumulation of microplastics.
Beyond daily microscopic shedding, fibers mainly enter our environment through washing. NPR reports that when scientists tested washing clothing that was known to shed microfibers, each piece of clothing shed up to two grams of microfibers — an alarming amount from just one piece of clothing going through one wash.
These fibers then get washed out as the washing machine empties and ends up in the oceans (and therefore the fish) as well as in drinking water and sprayed on fields (and therefore crops) for us to then ingest.
“I have no doubt that every time I eat oysters and mussels I eat at least one microfiber,” ecologist Chelsea Rochman, who studies microplastics in marine habitats, told NPR. “I see dust in the air and we inhale that. The question is, at what point does it become a problem?”
Rochman’s question is not yet answered. While it’s undeniable that we are in fact consuming these microplastics on a daily basis, the long-term effects on humans and animals ingesting microfibers is largely unknown.
NPR reports that companies like Patagonia, which produces clothing that release microplastics, are partnering with research groups to find out just how bad these materials are for human and animal health as well as their long-term effects.
Gregg Treinish, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, told NPR: “There’s no proven causal relationship with health issues, but I don’t want to spend the next 50 years eating it and then learn I shouldn’t have been.”
So are we destined to spend the rest of our lives eating food with some unwanted plastic seasoning? Well, Treinish points out that there are things we can do to make a difference here — namely, cut down on washing our clothes so frequently.
“Obviously, I’ll wash my jacket if a kid throws up on it,” Treinish told NPR, “but not if I just wore it once. It’s important what individuals do. I hope that doesn’t get lost.”
Going without a few washes for the sake of going without a few particles of plastic in our breakfast? We can get behind that compromise.
What Do YOU Think?
Will this make you rethink buying fleece? How do you stay aware of what’s in your food? Would you avoid certain foods to avoid microplastics? Do you believe they may be bad for our health? Let us know in the comments.