The Swim
S1 E10

How Millions of Microscopic Fibers Are Ending Up in Our Bodies

Millions of tiny fibers— called microfibers—wash out of our clothes and into the ocean every day. How can we quantify this invisible phenomenon and assess its impact on living things, including us?

Dr. Dimitri Deheyn and his team at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography are working with The Swim expedition to investigate the strange little strings known as microfibers. Shed by synthetic materials like polyester, spandex, and nylon, microfibers are so abundant that the filters once designed to catch them clogged so dramatically that companies removed them from washing machines altogether. Microfibers are tinier and carry more charge than microplastics, meaning they may be circulated more quickly throughout global water and air currents and soak up more toxins or microorganisms along the way. With the help of the Seeker crew, Dimitri and his team are collecting samples of ocean water and fish flesh to see if they can unravel the mystery of microfibers’ impact on living things.