How the clothes dryer can harm health and the environment


NEWCASTLE upon TYNE, England, ( — Tumble dryers are as bad as washing machines for spitting plastic, scientists warn. According to a recent study, clothes dryers release microfibers into the air at levels comparable to those that flow down the drain during the same load.

Results are based on experiments involving over 1,200 garments under typical conditions.

“By measuring the microfibers released during the whole washing process, we found that the loss of microfibers due to home drying is a huge concern,” says lead author Dr Kelly Sheridan, from Northumbria University in England. , by South West News Service. “Ours is the first study that has simultaneously quantified the microfibers released from clothes during washing as well as those released when clothes are subsequently tumble dried.”

Wildlife ingest these microfibers as they float through the air, settle on land, and are washed into rivers. Eventually, they end up on our plates when they enter the food chain. The particles also absorb harmful chemicals which seep into the systems of any person or animal that breathes them in.

Polyester and other man-made fibers do not decompose and remain in the environment for a very long time. The international team has urged manufacturers to install a filter that reduces the numbers that come out. The air used in the dryer passes through a duct or tube and is exhausted directly outside. Thousands of tons of air pollution could be reduced through the use of fabric softeners, dryer sheets and smaller pores in lint filters that trap more particles.

Washing clothes releases up to one million tons of microfibers each year worldwide, posing potential risks to aquatic ecosystems. Tiny fragments of clothing are blown out of dryer vents, which also poses a threat to human health. They have been found in sea-caught fish, beer, and even the placentas of unborn babies. Laboratory experiments suggest that they damage cells.

Research provides compelling reasons to hang clothes to dry and to use energy-intensive dryers sparingly, if at all.

“We measured the volume of microfibers released during washing, as well as those captured in the lint filters during machine drying, Sheridan explains. “Our study found that household clothes dryers produce comparable amounts of microfibers that could be released into the air as we already see entering our water systems from a standard wash cycle. While many microfibers can be captured in lint filters during drying, if the pore size is too large a significant amount will be released into the air, comparable to the amount released to drains during washing.

Tests on 10 polyester and 10 cotton t-shirts revealed that home dryers produced significantly more microfibers than washing. Many are captured in filters, but the amounts entering the atmosphere are similar to those entering rivers through washing.

“It is critical to our understanding of the impact of microfibers on human health and the environment that all potential pathways of microfiber release, including air, are evaluated. Airborne fibers are just as much of a concern as those in sewage,” adds Sheridan.

Synthetic materials, like polyester, are the worst because they biodegrade much slower than cotton or wool.

“Recent increases in energy costs have got us all thinking carefully about the financial impact of using clothes dryers, but few are aware of their impact on particulate air pollution,” says the co-author. , Dr. Neil Lant, of Procter and Gamble, in a statement. “These latest findings are a call to action for the appliance industry to improve the efficiency of fiber filtration systems in ventilated dryers and to support conversion to condenser dryers without fiber discharge in air suspension, especially very energy efficient heat pump dryers.While we know that people in different parts of the world and in different types of households may choose other ways to dry their clothes, our conclusions relate to the impacts of ventilated tumble drying.Further research would be needed to assess the impacts of other drying methods.

The US consumer giant has been working with Northumbria experts for more than five years. About 700,000 microfibers of acrylic and polyester garments are lost in the wash every cycle.

“We are very pleased with the results of this latest study with Northumbria University, which shows how products such as liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets can reduce airborne fiber pollution from dryers. machine,” added Jerry Porter, vice president of research and development at P&G. “This and other research findings will help us partner with the textile and appliance industries to identify long-term solutions to this complex problem.”

The study is published in the journal PLOS A.

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.


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