Science Brief: Study Reveals 14 Quadrillion Plastic Microfibers Lurking in California’s Ecosystem

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By, Vienne Linsalata, age 9 and IndyKids Staff

A new study of California waters has revealed that in 2019, an estimated 13.3 quadrillion microfibers were released into the state’s waterways and ocean, as reported by the Guardian. By 2050, it could be three times that much. The study was commissioned by a research team at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Microfibers are extremely small. But they are a big problem for the ocean, wildlife and humans. They are about 100 times finer than human hair and are present in virtually all synthetic fabrics, including acrylic, nylon and polyester. Microfibers are dangerous because they are small, toxic and very easy for wildlife to swallow. Humans can also ingest microfibers when they consume wildlife. When we wash clothes, these plastic microfibers are released into the wastewater, which then ends up in the ocean.

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