Fast-fashion microfibres harmful to lung health scientists warn

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Microplastics from “fast fashion” textiles such as nylon and polyester could be harming lungs and inhibiting the lungs’ ability to repair damage caused by conditions such as Covid-19, scientists have warned.

Microfibres from nylon and polyester (two of the most abundant textiles in indoor settings) were found to negatively affect the growth and repair of airway tissue, making it more difficult for those with Covid-19 to mend their lungs, research by scientists at Groningen University, The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research and Plymouth Marine Laboratory, suggest.

The “short and spikey” fibres from textiles such as polyester are more easily released into the air in the form of dust during routine wear and as a result of shedding during washing.

With humans exposed to microplastic fibres on a daily basis, the scientists also warned of the potential health risks to those with developing lungs, such as children.

Research principal investigator Professor Barbro Melgert said: “A virus damages the lungs so you need repair, and if your lungs are filled with fibres that are inhibiting this repair then you are in for another problem in addition to Covid-19.”

The findings build upon research from Dr Fransien van Dijk and colleagues on the impact of microplastics on lungs, which was unveiled at the Plastic Health Summit in 2019.

A second study, set to be revealed on The Plastic Health Channel shortly, found airborne nanoplastics are travelling from the lungs of pregnant rats to their foetus.

Dr Phoebe Stapleton of Rutgers University, who conducted the study, warned the situation could also be the case for human lungs.

“We need to get a better handle on human exposure overall initially. We need to identify the chemicals in these nanoplastics,” she said.

Both studies “raised serious concerns about the impact of microplastics entering the body,” experts from The Plastic Health Channel, which studies the impact of plastic on human health, added.


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