"Immune cells die three times faster when exposed to microplastics!"
Researchers at University Medical Center Utrecht observed that immune cells are able to recognize and attack microplastics, but as a result of this contact, immune cells that attacked microplastics are three times more likely to be damaged beyond repair than the cells that never came into contact with microplastics.
So, if microplastics are harming the cells which are keeping us healthy and ultimately alive, then microplastics should really be our concern number 1!
At Ethicuette, microplastics are indeed our concern number 1!
So, what is microplastic? For the purpose of this blog post, we will define microplastics as very small pieces of plastic that never biodegrade. We will focus on microplastics that originates from plastic-made clothes. For the purpose of this blog post, we will define plastic-made clothes as clothes that contain polyester and elastane (also known under different brand names like Spandex, Lycra, Elaspan, Creora, Elastam, Dorlastan or any other petroleum-based fiber).
Polyester, Elastane, and Acrylic are basically plastic, and in addition to your immune and other cells, they are harming carbon stability and purity of all Earth's ecosystems.
Polyester, Elastane, and Acrylic fibers are currently the most commonly used fibers in our clothing. At the same time, they are the biggest source of microplastic pollution.
Take your favorite sweater or your softest blanket. Take your underwear and body shirts. Check the carpet that some kids are likely to play on or the curtain they will hide behind. All this fabric around you likely contains either polyester or elastane. All this fabric also creates dust that you and your loved ones are eating, drinking and breathing in. The lower the quality of the fabric, the more microplastics it shreds when it is used.
So, microplastics are already in your body.
Microplastics are found to travel across the mother's placenta. It is found in human stool (no sample was free of microplastics). It is found literally everywhere somebody has looked.
Microplastics in your body might also come from the sea salt that you are using (microplastics is found in all but one sea salt brand), or the sea and river food that you are eating. No matter where microplastics were before it came into your body, you should know that very likely it originated in the clothes you are wearing.
Every time you wash any synthetic garment, thousands of microfibres shed and pollute the water flows. Globally it is estimated that half a million tons of plastic microfiber is dumped into the water flows annually. This is the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles!
So, as you wash your plastic clothes, it shreds microplastics, and the same microplastics are coming back to you and through the food chain enters your body.
Microplastics in our bodies eventually degrade into nanoplastics. At this point, these particles are invisible to us and they can penetrate cells and move into tissues and organs where they might release some really harmful chemicals. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been found even in human breast milk! These chemicals, used to make plastic clear and durable, are associated with:
- disruption in fertility cycles,
- delayed neurodevelopment in children,
- immune disorders,
- higher risk of hormone-related cancers,
- thyroid dysfunction and
- metabolism disorders.
Add to it the fact that the vast majority of additives have not been tested at all, and you will understand our motivation to make plastic-free clothes.
Apart from creating a microplastics problem, Polyester and Elastane are harming Earth's ecosystems and humans health in numerous other ways:
- the production of polyester uses harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, and if emitted to water and air untreated, can cause significant environmental damage.
- polyester cannot be dyed using low-impact and natural dyes. Chemical dyes used are extensively polluting the water flows.
- Producing a single polyester T-shirt emits 262% more CO2 than producing a cotton T-shirt.
- Cheap synthetic fibers emit gasses like nitrous oxide (N2O)- a greenhouse gas 300 times more damaging than carbon dioxide (CO2).
- More than 70 billion barrels of oil are used to make polyester each year.
So, what can you do about it?
Well, for the start, you can lose some plastic weight :) Check the "Ultimate plastic diet" created by Plastic Health Coalition and see if you can follow it.
As for the clothes you are wearing, we strongly recommend that you carefully get rid of all your clothes made of plastic and replace them with clothes that have zero-plastic. It is very important that you are careful when choosing your clothes. There are brands out there who claim to be sustainable fashion brands, but they still use plastic fibers and yarns. That is not a sustainable fashion, but greenwashing. A sustainable fashion brand, and more importantly ethical fashion brand, is the brand that is not using any plastic.
In one of the next posts, we will write about approaches you can take to make sure that microplastics from your clothes are properly disposed of. If you just throw it in your garbage bin, it might end up in a landfill, and that is not good.
Send us an email if you would like to be notified once the story is published.
Until next time, always read the label, and then choose not to buy plastic, especially single-use plastic, especially microplastics. It's time to make some sustainable fashion and ethical fashion :)