Microplastics From Our Clothes Threaten the Arctic: New Research Emerges

Microplastics are now all around us. They can be in the food we eat, animals, our children, and oceans. Scientists warn us: it’s not going to stop!

The small plastic fragments can be found on the world’s highest peak or, sadly, right when life begins. New research comes in our help and tries to show us where the microplastic debris is actually coming from.

You’ll be surprised yet concerned. More results are yet to be unveiled.

Here is what you need to know.

Arctic’s Major Threat: Microplastics

In new research realized by Peter Ross, an ocean pollution researcher from the Ocean Wise Conservation Association in Canada, researchers examined the microplastics in the Arctic Ocean. The findings are worrying.

Researchers analyzed up to 71 areas of the European and North American Arctic and the North Pole, as well. Added to these sites were the much lower depths in the Beaufort Sea. 

The team’s work

The team utilized the Fourier-transform infrared spectrometry technique to determine an average Arctic-wide sum of around 40 microplastic particles/cubic meter of ocean water. The vast majority, 92.3 %, was microplastic fibers, while 73.3 %, polyester.

All the microplastics were collected at depths of 3 to 8 meters. In the Beaufort Sea, researchers gathered samples as low as 1,015 meters.

You can watch a video below, highlighting the researchers’ work, findings, and other processes.

The source and the culprit

The team believed that polyester fibers came from the eastern Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean. But, the particles could’ve been delivered via atmospheric transport from the south. 

Researchers detailed:

“[…] an east-to-west shift in infra-red signatures [points] to a potential weathering of fibers away from source.”


As for the culprit, the team pointed out domestic wastewater with polyester fibers being shed from clothing when washed. 

The estimates suggest that only one clothing item can scatter millions of fibers during a typical wash. And that’s not all.

The wastewater treatment plants can clear more than 20 billion microfibers each year. Such a result is truly disappointing and concerning.

The findings are published in Nature Communications.

Georgia Nica
Writing was, and still is my first passion. I love all that cool stuff about science and technology. I'll try my best to bring you the latest news every day.