What are Microplastics?

Published 21st November 2018

The term Microplastics is defined as plastics that are smaller than 5 millimetres, which due to their size can be released into water bodies through insufficient filtration systems at effluent treatment plants. They are known by most to be added to care or cleaning products such as: toothpaste and scrubs. However, what is unknown is that they are found in clothing and synthetic materials.

Microplastics appear in clothing and synthetic materials when they are washed. Microplastics are released into water bodies through washing systems and even as much as 35% of microplastics that are accounted for in water bodies (i.e. Oceans) are from Synthetic fibres.


Microplastics are finding their way into our food supply and could Synthetic textiles be responsible?


There are two types of microplastics found in the world’s oceans:

Primary microplastics, which are directly released into the environment. One of the leading causes of this is the abrasion of synthetic textiles during washing

Secondary microplastics, come from the break down of larger plastics into smaller plastic pieces. This includes accidental loss of fishing nets.



The Problem

The issues with Microplastics being released in water bodies from clothing and synthetic materials are that aquatic organisms may be consuming microplastics due to the size of the particles being so small, which can be mistaken for food, and therefore ingested. Therefore, aquatic organisms are then either suffering from illness or death, but this issues even has the potential to appear in the food chain should the aquatic organism survive and be caught for produce. A solution for this could be filtration as small as 15 microns may be required at effluent plants in order to save the aquatic organisms and even the food chain.


So, what can be done?

Eurofins | BLC have developed a test method to establish the microplastic residue that may come away from a material during use. The method uses specialised microscopy to identify microplastic fibres.

This method can be adapted and modified to suit your needs. Eurofins | BLC can provide additional consulting support to interpret the results and build your understanding of your product.

To find out more, please contact us at info@chem-map.com or +44 (0)1604 679999

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