A lot of people have strong opinions about yoga pants. Millions love them, and millions more love to hate them. But, typically, these opinions are based on how “comfortable” or “appropriate” active wear is thought to be in public. But, now, yoga pants and other stretchy fabrics are being castigated for an entirely different issue: water pollution. Yes, yoga pants are being blamed for fouling up the ocean.
According to an Associated Press story out of Key West, “active wear” is being blamed as an increasing source of plastic pollution that’s not only creating hazards for sea life but also contaminating seafood. This is according to researchers, who conducted a two-year study of sea health in the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to the Florida Keys. According to the study, microscopic plastics are to blame for creating environmental issues due to microfibers and microbeads.
Microbeads have been getting negative headlines for some time, as some people believe the substances, found in soaps and body scrubs, are creating environmental issues. Microfibers, which come off yoga pants and other stretchy synthetic fabrics are an even worse problem … at least according to the study. The “problem” applies to anything made of nylon or polyester, which not only includes yoga pants but also popular fishing shirts and bathing suits.
The findings actually surprised researchers, who initially expected to find microbeads, but not evidence of plastic contamination from microfiber fabrics. As it turned out, at least along the Gulf coast, they found a lot more microfibers than microbeads out in the ocean.
The argument here is that these plastics can degrade, but they never actually disappear, and they are beginning to build up to problematic levels. This is news – unwelcome news – to America’s clothing retailers, especially those catering to beach communities, where comfortable, breathable and quick-dry textiles are the fabrics of choice.
That’s not to say tourists can expect to find a giant “yoga pants-fishing shirts garbage patch” like the infamous swirling mess out in the Pacific Ocean. Instead, the microfibers are, as you may imagine, really too small to see. But that, say researchers, does not mean they are not creating issues.
Of course, these researchers are also the first to admit more study needs to be done before any definitive actions should be taken. One study is not “settled science,” so clothing makers can breathe almost as easy as the fabrics their customers love … at least for now.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.