Are We Eating Our Fleece Jackets? Microfibers Are Migrating Into Field And Food

Jessica Boddy wrote . . . . . .

The innovation of synthetic fleece has allowed many outdoor enthusiasts to hike with warmth and comfort. But what many of these fleece-wearing nature lovers don’t know is that each wash of their jackets and pullovers releases thousands of microscopic plastic fibers, or microfibers, into the environment — from their favorite national park to agricultural lands to waters with fish that make it back onto our plates.

This has scientists wondering: Are we eating our sweaters’ synthetic microfibers?

Probably, says Chelsea Rochman, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Toronto, St. George. “Microfibers seem to be one of the most common plastic debris items in animals and environmental samples,” Rochman says.

In fact, peer-reviewed studies have shown that these synthetic microfibers — a type of plastic smaller than a millimeter in length and made up of various synthetic polymers — have popped up in table salt in China, in arctic waters and in fish caught off the coast of California. These tiny fibers make up 85 percent of human debris on shorelines across the globe, according to a 2011 study. They’re basically inescapable. So it’s not unlikely they’re finding their way into the human diet, especially in seafood.

In an effort to increase transparency and minimize pollution from their products, California-based clothing company Patagonia, popular for its microfiber-containing vests, pullovers and jackets, has started to partner with research groups to get to the bottom of how these fibers might be affecting both wildlife and human health.

Last year, the company worked with a research group led by Patricia Holden, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on a study to quantify microfiber release in washing machines. The group ran both name-brand and off-brand polyester fleece jackets through the wash without detergent to get a handle on the mass of microfibers shed each time.

The results, published in September of last year in Environmental Science and Technology, were eye-opening. Each wash of a jacket shed microfibers up to 2 grams. (For reference, a paperclip weighs 1.5 grams.) Also, each fleece jacket released seven times more fibers when washed in a top-load washing machine versus a front-load.

The dryer traps extra fuzz in the lint filter, says Holden. “But in the washer, [the microfibers are] carried down the drain.” From there, they end up in wastewater treatment plants, where many fibers can’t be filtered out and are released into the environment. Holden notes that this is just one pathway microfibers take into the environment. There could be additional pathways that scientists have yet to understand, she says.

And then there is the larger question: Are these tiny synthetic fibers harmful to humans and wildlife?

The answer is still fuzzy. Some research indicates certain wildlife might be affected: Two studies showed that ingesting microfibers leads to increased mortality in water fleas and makes common crabs eat less food overall. But it’s unclear what effects, if any, they have on you and me.

So the question for us is: Do we choose to eat seafood, knowing that we’ll probably get a few microfibers woven in? Or do we quit seafood altogether on the chance that they could have adverse health effects?

“I have no doubt that every time I eat oysters and mussels I eat at least one microfiber,” says Rochman, who studies microplastics in marine habitats and continues to indulge in seafood. “I see dust in the air and we inhale that. The question is, at what point does it become a problem? Here, the benefits outweigh the costs.”

Gregg Treinish, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Adventure Scientists, has a different take. “If you’re eating fish, you’re eating plastic,” Treinish says. “There’s no proven causal relationship with health issues, but I don’t want to spend the next 50 years eating it and then learn I shouldn’t have been.”

Holden, Rochman, Treinish and others all agree that we don’t understand everything about how microfibers traverse ecosystems and what they do inside human and wildlife bodies. But to minimize pollution in the first place, there are short-term solutions we can adopt.

Treinish rigged his washing machine with a filter designed for septic systems, hoping to catch some microfibers before they escape into the waterways. So far, he has filled two Nalgene water bottles with the filtrate. He continues to use the filter.

And he suggests a simpler solution: Just wash your fleece less often. “Obviously I’ll wash my jacket if a kid throws up on it,” Treinish says, “but not if I just wore it once. It’s important what individuals do. I hope that doesn’t get lost.”

Source: npr

Chinese-style Braised Pork Belly and Tofu

Ingredients

10 oz pork belly, cut into slices
2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 pack (6 oz) firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
2 slices ginger
1 stalk green onion, cut into sections
1 tbsp oil

Mainade

1 tbsp light soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tsp cornstarch

Sauce

1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp water

Method

  1. Mix pork with the marinade ingredients. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a wok. Saute ginger and green onion until fragrant.
  3. Add pork and stir-fried until no longer pink.
  4. Add tofu and tomato. Toss to combine.
  5. Add sauce ingredients and cook over medium heat until the pork is fully cooked. Serve hot.

Source: Hong Kong magazine

Norigami Tacos Combines Sushi and Tacos

Japanese and Mexican Fusion Food

Long-term Heavy Drinking May Age Arteries Over Time

Heavy alcohol drinking habits over the years may prematurely age arteries, especially in men, putting them at an increased risk for heart disease, according to new research in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Drinking too much, can affect the elasticity of the arterial walls (arterial stiffness) and prematurely age the arteries, interfering with blood flow.

Moreover, researchers found that male former drinkers were at risk for accelerated rates of arterial stiffness compared with moderate drinkers who were in early old age. This observation was not found in females, although the study of 3,869 participants was 73 percent male.

The findings, which looked at alcohol drinking habits over a 25-year period, support previous research on moderate alcohol consumption and its association with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. The question is how much alcohol is too much and at what point does alcohol start to cause damage to the arteries?

Participants ranged in age at the initial alcohol assessment from their 30s to their 50s, with statistical adjustment made for age (amongst other characteristics) in the study’s analyses, and anyone with a history of heart disease were excluded from the study. Few of the participants were current smokers, however 68 percent of the men and 74 percent of women failed to meet recommended weekly exercise guidelines. Among both men and women, one in 10 had Type 2 diabetes. Men were more likely to be heavy drinkers compared with women; however, there were twice as many stable nondrinkers and former drinkers among the women than the men.

Researchers compared data about participants’ alcohol consumption with carotid-femoral pulse wave artery velocity (PWV) measurements, or pulse waves between the main arteries found in the neck and thigh. The greater the velocity, the stiffer the artery. Alcohol intake was measured periodically across 25 years and the researchers subsequently looked at how those long-term intake patterns were associated with pulse wave velocity and its progression over a 4-to-5-year interval.

Consistent long-term, heavy drinking was defined in this U.K. study as more than 112 grams (3.9 ounces) of ethanol per week (roughly equivalent to one serving of alcoholic spirit, half a pint of beer, or half a glass of wine.); consistent moderate drinking was 1-112 grams of ethanol per week.

The American Heart Association defines moderate alcohol consumption as an average of one to two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women. A drink is 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits. Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk for alcohol dependency, cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure and obesity, stroke, certain types of cancer, suicide and accidents.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide, contributing to nearly one-third of deaths, researchers said.

How alcohol may impact arterial health is unclear, said Darragh O’Neill, Ph.D., lead study author and epidemiological researcher at University College London. “It’s been suggested alcohol intake may increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels — the good cholesterol — or decrease platelet stickiness. Conversely, heavier alcohol intake may activate certain enzymes that would lead to collagen accumulation, which could, in turn exacerbate the rate of arterial stiffening.”

“Based on these findings, the research team wants to look at multiple groups of people — since this study was limited to a single group that was mostly male — and identify the relationship that drinking patterns over time have with other indicators of cardiovascular disease.” O’Neill said

Source: American Heart Association


Today’s Comic

Character Cake

Totoro Tart (トトロタルト)

The Character – Totoro (トトロ)