Impact of vented and condenser tumble dryers on waterborne and airborne microfiber pollution

Amber M. Cummins, Adam K. Malekpour, Andrew J. Smith, Suzanne Lonsdale, John R. Dean, Neil J. Lant*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Laundering of textiles is a significant source of waterborne microfiber pollution, and solutions are now being sought to mitigate this issue including improvements in clothing technology and integration of filtration systems into washing machines. Vented tumble dryers are a potential source of airborne microfiber pollution, as their built-in lint filtration systems have been found to be inefficient with significant quantities of textile microfibers being released to the external environment through their exhaust air ducts. The present study is the first to evaluate the impact of condenser dryers, finding that they are significant contributors to waterborne microfiber pollution from the lint filter (if users clean this with water), the condenser and the condensed water. Microfiber release from drying of real consumer loads in condenser and vented tumble dryers was compared, finding that real loads release surprisingly high levels of microfibers (total 341.5 ± 126.0 ppm for those dried in a condenser dryer and 256.0 ± 74.2 ppm for those dried in a vented dryer), similar in quantity to microfibers produced during the first highly-shedding drying cycle of a new T-shirt load (total 321.4 ± 11.2 ppm) in a condenser dryer. Vented dryers were found to be significant contributors to waterborne microfiber pollution if consumers clean the lint filter with water in accordance with some published appliance usage instructions, as most (86.1 ± 5.5% for the real consumer loads tested) of the microfibers generated during vented tumble drying were collected on the lint filter. Therefore, tumble dryers are a significant source of waterborne and (for vented dryers) airborne microfiber pollution. While reducing the pore size of tumble dryer lint filters and instructing consumers to dispose of fibers collected on lint filters as municipal solid waste could help reduce the issue, more sophisticated engineering solutions will likely be required to achieve a more comprehensive solution.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0285548
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS One
Volume18
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2023

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