Hitting the gym or attending a yoga class is one of the best ways to improve your physical and mental health — but it turns out the practice isn’t so healthy for sea creatures: the materials in a lot of workout clothes are polluting the ocean. According to a new study, the synthetic materials in most yoga pants are filling the world’s oceans with tiny pieces of plastic called microfibers.
Nylon, acrylic, and polyester are used to make workout clothes, and these petroleum-based plastics make their way into the ocean after going through the washing machine.
The microfibers released during a wash end up in wastewater treatment plants, then travel to rivers, lakes, and oceans.
The Florida Microplastic Awareness Project tested 950 water samples from all over the state and found that microfibers accounted for 83 percent of the plastics identified. The researchers were so shocked by the results that they haven’t yet assessed the full impact of the pollution’s damage.
The microfibers are consumed by the ocean’s inhabitants, but they’re not always excreted — they get embedded into the tissues of marine creatures. This could potentially affect fish-eating humans as well.
More research will be conducted to determine the exact effects of microfibers, but for now consumers can help reduce the risks by buying workout clothes that don’t contain the material.
McGuire recommends reading labels carefully and buying clothes that are 100 percent cotton — try to avoid cotton blends, because they often contain polyester. Natural fabrics like bamboo, linen, and silk are also environmentally friendly.
When you wash your synthetic clothing, put it into a filter bag first in order to reduce the flow of microfibers. Patagonia is currently developing “Guppy Friend,” a washing bag that traps microfibers and prevents them from entering the water system.
This news is certainly depressing (especially for those of us who practically live in workout clothes), but at least there are a few steps we can take to keep microfibers as far away from ocean animals as possible.