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Microfiber awareness

March 6, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 10

I am not a chemist, but I am married to one. For about 40 years now, I have been reading C&EN. And you’d think it would make me smarter. But an article in the Jan. 9 edition reminded me that unfortunately it is not so.

I read the article about the problem of synthetic microfibers in the environment, which had the following quote: “Microfibers are the biggest plastic pollution issue you haven’t heard of yet” (C&EN, Jan. 9, page 16). For years, I have been keeping my husband and myself warm with clothing made of polyester fleece. The fluffy material is warm and lightweight. It is often made from recycled soda bottles. What is there not to love?

It turns out that when you wash your fleece jacket, the microfibers (microplastics) are released into the environment. I think I should have thought it through and realized the potential for a problem: A synthetic fiber made from plastic; lint in the dryer. The evidence was all there. But it never occurred to me to link this with the problem with microplastics.

As I reflected on this, I wonder why we (and I totally accept my responsibility in this) still continue to accept new scientific and technological advances without stopping to first assess and then proactively address the environmental (or other) consequences before they become problems.

Kathleen Kempe
Greer, S.C.


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