The presence of microplastics in our wastewater can be attributed primarily to two factors. Firstly, many cosmetic products, such as toothpaste, creams, shower gels, and peelings, contain tiny pieces of plastic in order to achieve a mechanical cleaning effect. Secondly, microplastics are washed out in the process of washing polymer textile clothing, and thus they enter our environment via wastewater.
Many researchers who have recently studied nanoparticles are now also investigating microplastics. They include Bernd Nowack, Edgar Hernandez, and Denise Mitrano (who is now working at the water research institute Eawag) from Empa's "Technology and Society" department. On the basis of their nanoparticle research, these three researchers recently published a first quantitative investigation of the release of microfibers from polyester textiles during washing, in the specialist journal "Environmental Science and Technology". In this study, the Empa team primarily investigated the ways in which washing agents, water temperature, and the number and length of wash cycles affect the release of microfibers.
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