"No Sample Taken Around the World was Clean"Researchers are finding that not all plastic pollution is visible to the naked eye like the great pacific gyre. Microplastic debris, many of which come from clothing fibers, also end up in marine ecosystems and make their way up the food chain.
Dr Browne, a member of the US-based research network National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, said the tiny plastic was a concern because evidence showed that it was making its way into the food chain."Once the plastics had been eaten, it transferred from [the animals'] stomachs to their circulation system and actually accumulated in their cells," he told BBC News. (source)
Samples were taken at 18 beaches around the world, and none of them were without microplastics. Polyester, acrylic and polyamides (nylon) were the most common types, and unsurprisingly, their concentration was greater near urban centers.
Washing clothes seems to be the main source of all those fibers, and while it's not quite clear yet what their impact is on marine life and on those who get their food from the oceans (some of this plastic might be pretty stable and inert, but some other might be dangerous), it would be a good precaution for water treatment plants to add ways to filter this microplastic pollution out of what they release back into the environment. It's also not a problem that happens with clothes made from natural fibers (cotton, rayon which is made from cellulose, etc), though cotton causes other problems because of how much water and pesticides is used to make it grow...