Think twice before you next use microfibres

Think twice before you next use microfibres

Why do we need to minimize the use of microfibers?

At a recent gathering, my best friend brought along her baby boy. Everyone present adored him and he was the center of attention. During dinner, however, the infant chewed his microfiber fleece blanket periodically. All babies do that; it is a common scene that we encounter often but never give much thought to. On my way home, a thought hit me like a nail; I realized that microfibers are threatening not only our environment but our health too. Through this seemingly harmless act, the baby could have been taking lots of micron-sized plastic particles into his little body without realizing it!

What are microfibers?

Microfibers are extremely thin synthetic fibers made from polyester and polyamide. Microfibers are way thinner than silk – less than 10 microns in diameter.

Microfibers have many desirable properties that explain their popularity. Microfiber-based fabrics are soft and lightweight. They dry easily and can exist in many forms. In addition, their high fiber density and plastic-like property make them water-repellent and less likely to be stained. Microfibers are fast becoming the fabric of choice; today, they are widely used in home textiles, clothing and accessory items as well as cleaning products.

For all of the advantages microfibers provide over other fabrics, there is a catch. All that shines is not gold! Microfibers are becoming some of the biggest pollutants today. The garment industry has ignored the issues for years but scientists have found that a piece of microfiber clothing can shed, conservatively-speaking, 1,900 fibers in every wash (some researches suggest a much higher number)! Ultimately, these tiny bits of plastic threads find their way into oceans and lakes and back to our food chain as they get swallowed by fish and marine life! Mind you, these microplastics are not biodegradable. This makes them a significant health and environmental hazard.

how microfibres affect our environment and us

Many of us are consciously using less disposable plastic bags and containers but are still unaware that we are polluting our water and our planet with every laundry wash. For each piece of microfiber-based garment we buy, we add to the strain on planet Earth. In the case of my friend’s beloved baby boy, he was unknowingly ingesting micro threads. These foreign objects were making their way into his vulnerable little body! Few have written about health issues attributable to microfibers due to the lack of public awareness. Concurrently, research performed on this subject is limited because scientists are still struggling to obtain the necessary funding for further studies. What little research that has been done have only involved the collection and study of water samples to understand the issue.

As in any industry, commercial gains on the part of manufacturers and consumers’ demand for cheaper and eye-catching goods always drive the market. Research into their impact on humans and the environment, unsurprisingly, is almost always relegated to the backseat.

Nevertheless, common sense tells us that if microfibers can be released into our ocean through normal wash cycles, then surely, a baby sucking a microfiber blanket innocently cannot be spared from absorbing microfiber in his little body! As parents, do we really want to wait for another 10 years before we acknowledge this urgent threat to our health?

Looking at my wardrobe, I have to admit I am a guilty party myself. Like the average consumer oblivious to the issue, I have stocked up quite a few pieces of microfiber clothing. I have even often travelled with them. I probably will not go as far as throwing them away without fully utilizing the goods. However, as a responsible human being, I will certainly not pick up a new microfiber product ever again!

What are our choices then, you may ask? It is a tough question because as much as conventional cotton has taken a toll on the environment, we cannot switch to 100% organic cotton or other natural products fast enough. There is always an ongoing debate between environmental and health awareness versus concerns over cost. This is a subject that is worth exploring further with our readers, but for now, at the very least, let’s recycle as often as we can and let’s buy less and go for quality products. Let’s not buy on impulse but on necessity.

Choose wisely! Join the iKotton initiative and help us spread social awareness to build a sustainable planet!


    • Avatar
      ellen beck
      Jan 15, 2018

      I had no clue microfiber wasnt a natural product. I had always though because of the way they absorb that they were cotton based. I dont have clothes or blankets made out of any, I have a few hand towels. I never read what they were made from... but the way they were hailed as so wonderful and in adddition I have never really seen anything written about them. You made me think twice, I am super plastic aware and hate the stuff. Thank you for the article.

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