Blue jeans linked to water pollution from Great Lakes to Arctic, says study

Blue jeans linked to water pollution from Great Lakes to Arctic, says study

Blue jeans linked to water pollution from Great Lakes to Arctic, says study

TORONTO — They may hug you in all the right places, but your favourite pair of jeans could be contributing to the pollution of Canada’s waters, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Toronto published a paper on Wednesday revealing that they’ve detected microfibres from blue jeans in aquatic environments ranging from the shallow suburban lakes near Toronto, across the Great Lakes and all the way up to the Arctic Archipelago.

Co-author Sam Athey said previous studies have shown that plastic microfibres from synthetic clothing are polluting oceans and rivers.

But Athey said the team’s findings indicate that so-called “natural” fabrics may represent a new frontier of the microfibre pollution problem.

She said further investigation is needed to understand the impacts of human-processed cotton microfibres on marine wildlife.

But earth sciences professor Miriam Diamond said there may not be time to let the scientific process unfold, because the presence of these particles in waters so far away from most of the jeans-wearing population should be cause for global concern.

“Frankly, we can’t keep waiting to figure out what the impacts are,” Diamond said. “What we do know is that we shouldn’t be polluting the Arctic like this.”

Athey said the investigation started when she and her fellow doctoral students realized that indigo-dyed cotton fibres kept coming up in samples across their respective areas of environmental research.

Diamond suspected that the source may be a worldwide wardrobe staple: blue jeans.

The researchers set out to study the distribution of denim and other human-processed cotton microfibres across Canada’s water systems.

Denim microfibres were found at depths greater than 1,500 metres, indicating that the particles may be able to travel long distances and accumulate in remote regions, according to the study.

Athey said denim microfibres were also detected in effluent from wastewater treatment plants that discharge into Lake Ontario, suggesting their route may be traced back to the washing machine.

Researchers conducted a series of tests that found that a pair of used jeans can shed roughly 56,000 microfibres per wash.

Athey said some studies suggest that washing machine filters can help trap microfibres and prevent them from entering aquatic environments.

Diamond said denim lovers can reduce their fashion footprint — and preserve their pants — by following clothing manufacturers’ recommendations to try to get as much wear out of their jeans as possible before washing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 2, 2020.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

Pollution and Air Quality

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

FILE - In this Friday Aug. 21, 2020 file photo, Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, addresses the media in Berlin, Germany. Activists for imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny are calling for massive protests in the heart of Moscow and St. Petersburg as Navalny's health reportedly is deteriorating severely while on hunger strike. Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Navalny, said the demonstrations are called on short notice for Wednesday April 21, 2021, because "his life hangs in the balance. ... We don't know how long he can hold on." (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)
Navalny’s team calls protests amid reports of failing health

MOSCOW — Associates of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called Sunday… Continue reading

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures during a news conference Sunday, April 4, 2021, at the Manatee County Emergency Management office in Palmetto, Fla. DeSantis has received a single-dose coronavirus vaccine. His office confirmed Wednesday, April 7, 2021 that the Republican governor got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only a single dose. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, file)
GOP White House hopefuls move forward as Trump considers run

WASHINGTON — Less than three months after former President Donald Trump left… Continue reading

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

Most Read