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Brilliant piece Barbara! She addresses the impact of synthetic fibers, as they flow to our oceans via laundry wastewater.

EcoFacts: And after we buy our clothing? We wash them, sometimes dry clean them, sometimes iron them, hence the impact each piece of our clothing has. There is the electricity and gas for washing and drying and pressing, the detergents and other products that end up in the water, and a more recent shocking discovery – their synthetic and natural fibers that come out in the wash ending up in our rivers, lakes and oceans to become part of the ecological landscape. They are then eaten by fish, shellfish, and their predators, us.

There are no filters for the wastewater that flows out of our washing machines, which agitate the hell/fibers right out of our clothing. A recent study was performed in California and Indonesia. The fish caught off the coast of California (a quarter of the samples) had these microfibers in their bodies, the ones in Indonesia instead had microbits of plastic waste. They wash their clothes by hand so few of these fibers were found in the fish (whereas their handling of garbage resulted in much greater amounts of plastics present and breaking down in their local waters.)

The problem may be the worst with synthetic materials such as fleeces due to toxicity of fibers, but does not end there.

Kudos to Mark Browne, the ecologist who has been studying this problem for years, and working with many to alert the industries involved in an effort towards ameliorating it. His program is called “Benign By Design” and his impressive presentation can be viewed here.

To my great surprise his office is a quick bike ride away from my home here in Santa Barbara, so perhaps there will be more later. 

One last time, I salute old clothes, and add “Down with fast, disposable fashion!” One can be sure that the new ones emit more microfibers and chemicals from their processing than the old.

And of my saddest surprise today, I bow to the life and memory of one of our great local healers Dr. Henry Han, and to his family. Many have suffered far more than average from toxins in our environment and some have been fortunate enough to find healers like him.

Barbara Hirsch, eco-nut

Santa Barbara, California

“Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”    The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss

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