NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Could your gym clothes be dangerous?
It may sound far fetched, but they shed fibers that get into our waterways, attract pollutants, and are ingested by marine life.
It’s a cycle that’s poisonous for fish, and potentially for humans.
As CBS2’s Kristine Johnson reported, Rachael Miller and her crew on the 60-foot research ship ‘American Promise’ have been taking water samples in the shadow of Manhattan on the Hudson River.
It’s called the Rozalia Project — they’re testing for microfibers that come from the gym clothes and fleece that millions wear every day.
“Our clothing is breaking up into tiny little pieces, and they’re so small that they’re washing out of our washing machines and into our public waterways,” Miller said.
Cottons and other natural fibers break down over time, but synthetic microfibers will never biodegrade.
“Fish are ingesting them and we are ingesting fish,” she explained. “I don’t want to eat my fleece.”
Research has shown that one fleece jacket could shed over 80,000 microfibers per wash. They’re too small for conventional filters, so Miller has designed her own solution.
“You put it in your washing machine, and that’s all you have to do. It actively collects the fibers and as kind of a bonus it collects hair as well,” she said.
CBS2 reached out to several athleisure manufacturers about the pollution their clothing may be causing. Patagonia is the only one who responded. They said they’re actively looking at the issue from multiple angles and are working on the, “development and application of new materials within our product line.”
Dan Shapely of Riverkeepers — an environmental watchdog group — is carefully monitoring the Rozalia Project’s research.
“It’s an issue that we weren’t aware of probably five years ago or less,” he said, “The fibers can attract pollutants and the fish and other wildlife will consume those and ultimately we will too.”
He agreed that the washing machine solution is a great start.
“A treatment that individuals can use in their own laundry, which is great and provides people who care and understand the issue something that they can do,” he said.
It’s till too early to tell what the long term health implications are.
The device to catch fibers should be on the market by next spring.