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Patagonia Admits There's a Problem in Microfibers -- Are Synthethic Clothes the Biggest Unknown Environmental Issue?

Nov 17, 2016 04:00 AM EST

In 2011, ecologist Mark Browne discovered that microplastics from the fibers of our clothes are flown unknowingly to oceans, killing and polluting ecosystems. Now, Patagonia, one of the biggest synthetic clothes producers, admits that there's indeed a problem.

Through examining the sediments found in shorelines and sampling wastewater from washing machines, Browne discovered that approximately 1,900 individual fibers are rinsed off and released to the environment, The Guardian reports. The results of his findings were published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Fibers or microplastics, according to Treehugger, measures less than 0.2 inches. Because of their miniscule size, they could not be filtered from wastewater plants and are washed up into oceans.

Previous studies have shown the dangers of microplastics in marine life. In fact, a recent study from the University of California Davis shows how the chemicals in these microplastics could lead to fish death when ingested as they could make the animal starve or loop around its organ.

Browne has immediately called the attention of big synthetic clothes companies such as Nike and Patagonia, but they just turned a cold shoulder on the ecologist. However, five years after publishing the study, Patagonia has also commissioned a research project to determine the amount of microplastics shedded from its garments.

"When Yvon Chouinard [Patagonia’s founder] was confronted with the dilemma of clean climbing, he didn't proclaim that he would look into the matter; he stopped making pitons altogether," the company wrote in a blog post. "The same approach should be taken with the manufacturing of synthetic fleece. When the only available information is anecdotal the response should be to err on the side of caution, not business as usual until someone proves otherwise.”

To learn more about microplastics and how it can harm the oceans and marine species, check out the video below. 

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