Home Latest news Londoners are breathing in millions of microfibers from textiles every day

Millions of microplastics are raining down in London at higher levels than any other city previously reported. A staggering amount of 92% of these microplastics originate from textiles, such as clothing, upholstery, and carpets.

Microplastics were found in every tested sample and their levels were higher in London compared to samples in countries like China, France, and Germany. Even though microplastics can travel as far as 95km by the wind, the sources of microplastics in the London air are likely local.

Up until now, research had shown that microfibers were highly present in indoor environments, such as households: an average household generates 20kg of domestic dust a year, of which 6kg consists of microplastics. These results prove that not only are we breathing in our clothes and other textiles in our houses, the streets of our big cities are also extremely polluted.

Photo by Eva Dang on Unsplash

What is the effect of microfibers in our lungs?

Nylon and polyester are commonly used in household fabrics and synthetic clothing, carpets, and furniture. Researcher Fransien van Dijk presented the preliminary research results in Amsterdam on October 3rd during the first-ever Plastic Health Summit. Van Dijk explained that, when nylon and polyester microfibers get in contact with the lungs, defense cells (macrophages) mainly attack nylon fibers but leave polyester untouched.

When plastic microfibers are in contact with our lungs, as well as its additives (dyes, plasticizers), they could lead to health effects including reproductive toxicity, carcinogenicity, and mutagenicity. Microplastics have long been known to damage lung tissues, leading to cancer, asthma attacks, and other health problems.

The question remains: to what extent are these microfibers in big cities such as London affecting its citizens and what measures should be taken from governments in order to lower these worrying levels?

Consumers can prevent inhaling these microfibers in their homes by regularly ventilating their houses as well as vacuuming as much as possible!