Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Washing Your Clothes Puts Plastic in Your Fish

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 11:23 AM

click image PIXABAY.COM
You knew about the mercury in your ahi tuna, the neurotoxin in your Dungeness crab, and the drought that's killing off the salmon population. Our delicious friends from the deep now face another threat, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis — your clothes and your washing machine.

Plastic microfibers were found in the guts of a quarter of fish caught off of Half Moon Bay in a recent study, according to a recent review led by researcher Chelsea Rochman, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Davis. The study was published in September, but is making the rounds again now.

According to another Davis professor interviewed by ABC-7, 80 percent of the plastic found in fish is believed to come from the synthetic fabric found in nearly everything we wear these days.

And this is not due to a great Lululemon patch off of Hawaii. The fabric in the fish, according to the researchers, ended up in the ocean thanks to our washing machines.

In addition to freeing socks back into the wild, every time you wash your clothes, tiny microfibers come loose. Just one cycle for a fleece jacket, set of yoga clothes, or Under Armor whatever can release more than 1,900 microfibers, according to the researchers.

And after discharge from your home or laundromat, the graywater from washing machines ends up in the city's combined sewer-stormwater system, which eventually dumps the water back into the ocean — without removing the fibers, according to Susan Williams, a UC Davis professor interviewed by ABC-7.

Apparently, the microfibers are so small that the filters in use at treatment plants are no use at all.

So what does the plastic in our fish do to us when we consume it? Scientists aren't sure. But Williams told the TV station that it could soon be time to test fish for plastic contamination as well as mercury and deadly bacteria.

In the meantime, every time you slip on a nice, fresh synthetic garment, you now have cause to feel guilty.

  • Pin It

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


Comments are closed.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"