Most of the dust grains in our homes are dangerous microplastics, and the Saharan dust cloud can bring more


It’s a good thing you’re wearing your mask.

Most of the dust particles floating around in homes are plastic microfibers, scientists say, that have nothing to do with our lungs.

“If you think, for example, of a sunny day and you are inside your house,” said Sarah-Jeanne Royer, biogeochemist and researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “You look out the window and you see this ray of light shining inside your house, you will see all these little particles and dust floating around. Well, most of that dust is actually microfibers. And we find these microfibers everywhere.

Everywhere is not the best place for airborne plastics.

“We’re not supposed to breathe this material,” said Steve Allen, a microplastics researcher at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland recently. Recount American scientist.

They “carry all kinds of pesticides, heavy metals and all the other chemicals that we’ve made over time,” he said. “They will carry them directly to our lungs.”

Allen and a team of colleagues captured microplastics over a five-month period at a weather station about 4,500 feet above sea level in the French Pyrenees. They wind models studied to try to determine the source of the plastics, and determined that they came from a dry location over 60 miles away. Because they were accompanied by fine dust similar to orange quartz, the most likely suspect was the Sahara.

A more recent successful study plastics in nature parks in the western United States revealed that 98 percent of the samples contained microplastics and that 70 percent of them were small enough to come from remote areas of the globe. The study is based on priority work who analyzed the distribution of dust from North African sources, including the Sahara.

The Saharan dust cloud now darkening the US Gulf Coast has made headlines for potential impacts on hurricane season and lung disease like asthma, and on its risk of complicating coronavirus infection. Its microplastic content remains largely unexplored.

Closing the windows will not eliminate the microplastics that fall from the clouds, as much of the fiber comes from our homes.

“We have to remember that 62 percent of our clothes are made from plastic,” Royer said during the EarthxOceans Conference this month, citing lycra, nylon, and polyester as popular plastic fabrics. “When wearing these clothes, microscopic pieces come off. This is called microfibers. They are released into the air, indoors, outdoors, in your home.

“We breathe them, we eat them when we eat, they are also found in our glass of beer, in our cup of tea or coffee.

The problem seems overwhelming, but Royer insists there are solutions: use less plastic. Buy less clothes, and when it comes to buying clothes, go for natural fibers. For those plastic clothes we don’t want to give up, equip our washers with a filter fine enough to capture microplastics to prevent them from entering the environment and possibly our body.


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