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From Norway to Canada, the Arctic Ocean is being polluted by tiny plastic fibers from our clothes

January 11, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 44.4%. 2 min read.

Sea ice breaks apart as the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica traverses the Northwest Passage through the Victoria Strait in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago Friday, July 21, 2017. Since the first orbital images were taken in 1979, Arctic sea ice coverage has dropped by an average of about 34,000 square miles each year _ almost the surface area of Maine or the country of Serbia. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Tiny microfiber strands, washed into the ocean from laundering our clothes or from industrial wastewater, are polluting one of the most remote regions on Earth.

Tiny microfiber strands, washed into the ocean from laundering our clothes or from industrial wastewater, are polluting one of the most remote regions on Earth.

While microplastics -- those measuring up to 5 millimeters in diameter, or about the size of a sesame seed -- have previously been found in Arctic sea ice, new research has found that microplastic pollution is widespread near the surface of seawater across all regions of the Arctic, including the North Pole.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, found that 92% of those microplastic particles are miniscule synthetic fibers -- with most of these being polyester.

"Microplastics have reached the remote reaches of every corner in the Arctic Ocean, from Norway, to the North Pole, to the Canadian and US Arctic waters," said Dr. Peter S.

Despite being a very remote region, the Arctic is intimately linked to "our homes and to our laundry and our shopping habits," in the rest of the world, Ross added.

Synthetic fibers were the dominant source of microplastics at 92. 3%, with the majority consisting of polyester.

Concentrations of microplastics were three times higher in the Eastern Arctic (above Western Europe and the North Atlantic Ocean) than they were in the Western Arctic (above the Western Canadian shoreline and above Alaska).

The eastern fibers were also 50% longer compared to the west and also appeared newer and fresher -- suggesting that most fibers encountered in the Arctic Ocean originated from the Atlantic.

That's not surprising, researchers said, given that more water flows from the Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean than it does from the Pacific.

Ross said there is a growing acknowledgment among many clothing companies that that they shouldn't only see their footprint in terms of water use, dyes, chemicals, emissions, and other environmental impacts, but that "they also need to address concerns on fibers shedding around laundry and the lifetime of their products. "

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