The microfibers generated by the clothing industry disrupt the metabolism of oysters, even at low doses, and this all the more strongly if these fibers are of natural origin, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Pollution.
“What surprised us were the deleterious effects that natural fibers have on the digestion and immunity of the oyster”, explains Camille Détrée, lecturer in marine biology at the French University of Caen-Normandie. , quoted in a press release.
“The roughness of the surface of the natural fibers is greater and probably causes greater inflammation of the digestive walls during transit” of the oyster, she says.
The textile industry also uses up to 8,000 different chemical components to improve the properties of clothing, dyeing or treatment with pesticides.
Every year, about 2 million tons of microfibers, mainly of natural origin, are released into the oceans, largely through household washing machines, before being ingested by marine organisms, recalls this study carried out by French scientists.
The latter exposed hollow oysters to natural (wool, organic cotton or not) and synthetic (acrylic, nylon and polyester) textile microfibers and their chemical additives for 96 hours.
They then studied the ability of oysters to ingest these microfibers and compared the effects on their health.
A first experiment was carried out with a concentration of 10 microfibers per litre, considered to be the average level in the oceans, and a “disaster” scenario with a concentration of 10,000 microfibers per litre.
“We did not observe more effects on oysters exposed to high or low concentrations of microfibers. This suggests that a low environmental dose is sufficient to trigger effects on their health,” says Ms. Détrée.
According to Arnaud Huvet, marine biologist at Ifremer and co-author, the study shows that microfibers of natural origin “do not seem less impactful than synthetic ones on the health of oysters”.
“However, it is important to take into account their persistence time in the marine environment: a few weeks or months for 100% natural fibers, compared to tens or even hundreds of years for synthetic materials”.
Rather than promoting natural fibres, the authors plead for the adoption of slow fashion (slow fashion) extending the lifespan of clothes.