Electric clothes dryers: An underestimated source of microfiber pollution
Microplastics, particularly microfibers, are ubiquitous, found in aquatic (freshwater and marine) and terrestrial environments and within the food web worldwide. It is well-established that microplastics in the form of textile fibers enter the environment via washing machines and wastewater treatment effluent. Less is known about the release of microfibers from electric clothes dryers. In this study we measure microfiber emissions from home installed dryers at two different sites. At each site the distribution of fibers landing on the snow’s surface outside dryer vents and the weight of lint in dryer exhaust exiting dryer vents were measured. Fibers from the pink polyester fleece blankets used in this study were found in plots throughout a 30ft (9.14m) radius from the dryer vents, with an average number across all plots of 404 ± 192 (SD) (Site 1) and 1,169 ± 606 (SD) (Site 2). The majority of the fibers collected were located within 5 ft (1.52m) of the vents. Averages of 35 ± 16(SD)mg (Site 1) and 70 ± 77 (SD)mg (Site 2) of lint from three consecutive dry cycles were collected from dryer vent exhaust. This study establishes that electric clothes dryers emit masses of microfiber directly into the environment. Microfiber emissions vary based on dryer type, age, vent installation and lint trap characteristics. Therefore, dryers should be included in discussions when considering strategies, policies and innovations to prevent and mitigate microfiber pollution.