WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Household washing machines are a major source of "microplastic" pollution, tiny bits of plastic littering beaches worldwide, a study in a U.S. journal reports.
Researcher Mark Browne at University College Dublin and colleagues say the accumulation of microplastic debris in marine environments -- tiny bits of polyester and acrylic smaller than the head of a pin -- raises health and safety concerns as the plastic debris contains potentially harmful chemicals that go into the bodies of animals and could be transferred to people who consume fish.
Writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the researchers said the highest concentrations are found on shores in densely populated areas and identified wastewater from household washing machines as a major source.
More than 1,900 fibers can rinse off a single garment during a wash cycle, the researchers says, and these fibers look just like the microplastic debris on shorelines.
"Designers of clothing and washing machines should consider the need to reduce the release of fibers into wastewater and research is needed to develop methods for removing microplastic from sewage," they recommended.