The Great Lakes – Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario – account for 84% of North America’s surface fresh water and 21% of the worlds fresh surface water. Now scientists are warning of a new threat, microfibers.
Sherri Mason, a chemist employed at the State University of New York at Fredonia, said Friday that “polyester fleeces and similar garments can shed thousands of fibers when laundered. They’re making their way to waste-water treatment plants and then into the lakes.
Mason and her co-workers have also recorded the existence of micro-plastic litter – many naked to the human eye – in the Great Lakes. Data collected from a 2013 expedition on southern Lake Michigan resulted an unusually high number of fibers identified within fish. Fish sometimes mistake tiny plastics for food and eat them. Mason says fibers are getting stuck inside their bodies more than other micro-plastics are.
“The longer the plastic remains inside an organism, the greater the likelihood that it will impact the organism in some way,” Mason said, noting that many plastics are made with toxic chemicals.
The scientist also warned that our drinking water piped in from the Grate Lakes may also be polluted with tiny fibers, she said.
Microfibers are used so widely, there’s no obvious solution, Mason said. Persuading people to stop wearing synthetic clothes likely would be a tougher sell than the idea of switching facial scrubs.
Major health effects associated with high exposure to micro-fiber pollutants include; high toxicity to the nervous system, chromosomal damage, anemia, blood disorders, and leukemia, Cancer, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal problems.