Airborne emissions of microplastic fibres from domestic laundry dryers

Stacey O'Brien*, Elvis D. Okoffo, Jake W. O'Brien, Francisca Ribeiro, Xianyu Wang, Stephanie L. Wright, Saer Samanipour, Cassandra Rauert, Tania Yessenia Alajo Toapanta, Rizsa Albarracin, Kevin V. Thomas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Citations (Scopus)


An emission source of microplastics into the environment is laundering synthetic textiles and clothing. Mechanical drying as a pathway for emitting microplastics, however, is poorly understood. In this study, emissions of microplastic fibres were sampled from a domestic vented dryer to assess whether mechanical drying of synthetic textiles releases microplastic fibres into the surrounding air or are captured by the inbuilt filtration system. A blue polyester fleece blanket was repeatedly washed and dried using the ‘Normal Dry’ program of a common domestic dryer operated at temperatures between 56 and 59 °C for 20 min. Microfibres in the ambient air and during operation of the dryer were sampled and analysed using microscopy for particle quantification and characterisation followed by Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Pyrolysis Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (Pyr-GC/MS) for chemical characterisation. Blue fibres averaged 6.4 ± 9.2 fibres in the room blank (0.17 ± 0.27 fibres/m3), 8.8 ± 8.5 fibres (0.05 ± 0.05 fibres/m3) in the procedural blank and 58 ± 60 (1.6 ± 1.8 fibres/m3) in the sample. This is the first study to measure airborne emissions of microplastic fibres from mechanical drying, confirming that it is an emission source of microplastic fibres into air – particularly indoor air.

Original languageEnglish
Article number141175
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2020


  • Air
  • Dryer
  • Emission
  • Fibre
  • Microplastic
  • Pyr-GC/MS


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