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Residential buildings are a major source of microplastic pollution, study says

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Research & Development Sustainability

Everyday household activities like washing dishes, doing laundry, taking showers, and using toilets can spread microplastics, the Indian Institute of Technology Madras study says.

Daily activities carried out in residential houses are major contributors of microplastics, a new study says.

The study from Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras), in Chennai, India, suggests that among the various sources contributing to the spread of microplastics in the environment, municipal wastewater is a major source.

The study also identifies the transportation, transformation, and toxicity effects of microplastics in aquatic organisms and human beings.

According to a Dec. 8 press release, the authors of the study described their work as “the first-of-its-kind attempt” to explore the diverse activities and products within residential buildings and identify them as major contributors to the generation of microplastics.


According to the study, laundry washing releases a significant quantity of microfibers into wastewater, while personal care products like shower gels, face cleansers, and toothpaste contain deliberate microplastic additives known as microbeads.

The study also says that items such as face masks and synthetic indoor fabrics, including carpets, contribute to environmental and indoor pollution which poses potential harm to aquatic as well as terrestrial ecosystems, and human and pet health. “For instance, dishwashing typically involves the use of plastic-based scouring pads, where the softer part of the sponge is composed of polyurethane (PU) and the attached mesh is made of polyethylene (PE),” the researchers said. “Over time, as the sponge wears down, the shedding of plastic material results in the creation of secondary microplastics.”

The researchers add that it was important to note that these estimates do not even account for ubiquitous synthetic fibres such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyamide (PA), and polyacrylate.

The study suggests that source reduction was a “vital consideration” to combat microplastic pollution; it also suggests that personal care products should be replaced with biodegradable materials, and use of plastic-based products such as scouring pads needs to be reduced. Also, laundry machines should also have highly efficient filters.

The study was published in the Environmental Science and Pollution Research journal, and can be found at this link.


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