A new study quantifies the textile microfibers found in the sediments in the south European seas.
Not much is known about the textile microfibers in the seafloor sediments. A study by the University of Barcelona, published in the PLOS ONE, aims to shed some light on their composition and abundance of these microfibers in south European sea floors, from the Cantabrian Sea to the Black Sea.
The study analysed these very fine, colored fibers, which originate mainly from home and industrial washing machines. They varied between 3-8mm, and were less than a 0.1mm in diameter. A washing machine can release up to 700,000 microfibers to waste waters in one use.
The ocean’s depth did not matter, as about 20 percent of the particles were found in the open sea at more than 2,000 meters deep.
According to Anna Sánchez Vidal, from the Department of Earth and Ocean Dynamics, “Textile microfibers seem to concentrate at the bottom of submarine canyons, while the quantity in the slope is significantly lower. This suggests microfibers, probably coming from the ground [...] are accumulated in the continental platform, from where they are swept and taken by several oceanographic processes to marine hollows through the natural conducts—marine canyons."
The main type of microfibers found was the natural cellulose (cotton, linen) and regenerated cellulose (rayon of viscose), originating from mainly clothes and industrial textiles. For synthetic fibers, polyester is the most common one, followed by acrylic, polyamide, polythene and polypropylene.
"Some of these synthetic microfibers are made of plastic, which does not degrade shortly, it can contain chemical additives, which can be easily incorporated to the trophic network," said Vidal.
Hence it is necessary to develop effective management strategies to deal with this extensive emission of microfibers. Vidal added: "We need to advance in research and innovation in the textile industry, in the design of effective filters for washing machines, in the treatment of waste waters, and the promotion of sustainable clothing."