The simplest answer: yes, they are. It’s a hard concept to wrap your head around. How could something so simple and so comfortable be killing the planet and people? Well, it’s not the leggings fault it’s material that they are constructed from. (It’s also important to note that leggings are not to blame for all environmental issues.)
Leggings, and anything that is made from nylon or polyester, are made from synthetic material that shed microscopic plastic fibers – called microfibers. When you wash clothes in the washing machine the microfibers are released into the wastewater system. From there, the water from the wastewater system is flushed into natural waterways which eventually reaches the sea.
At first glance it may seem like these microfibers are harmless. But in reality, these plastics are extremely dangerous for everyone. They can be found in beer, salt, seafood, sugar, alcohol, and honey. We ingest so many things that contain microfibers, that the average eats microfibers every single day. A study at King’s College in London hypothesized that the cumulative effect of ingesting plastic could be toxic. Some plastics are made from chemicals like chlorine, and some others can pick up chemicals like lead. The overall build-up of these toxins over time could affect the immune system. Eating seafood that contains microfibers could damage the stomach’s balance. Scientists still do not completely understand the impact of microfibers on the body, but they do know that these impacts are not good.
Now, you should not go boycotting leggings and every single brand that uses nylon or polyester. Those materials are essentially cheap and effective, so of course, a lot of brands are going to opt to use them. If you would like to avoid releasing microfibers into the waters there are actually a few things you can do. It’s very difficult to find leggings that have that classic stretch but don’t release microfibers. Instead, you can put a microfiber filter on your washing machine, or put a microfiber laundry ball in during every wash to prevent all microfibers from being released from your home’s wastewater system into natural waterways. It is the small actions that can hopefully lead to a better environment and overall planet.
Check out this informational video on micro plastics !: https://youtu.be/BqkekY5t7KY
“Dangers of Microfibres and Microplastics.” The Thames Project, http://www.thethamesproject.org/dangers-microfibres-microplastics/.
Gibbens, Sarah. “You Eat Thousands of Bits of Plastic Every Year.” The Average Person Eats Thousands of Plastic Particles Every Year, Study Finds, National Geographic , 5 June 2019, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/06/you-eat-thousands-of-bits-of-plastic-every-year/.
Press, Associated. “Yoga Pants Are Destroying the Earth.” New York Post, New York Post, 26 July 2017, nypost.com/2017/03/15/yoga-pants-are-destroying-the-earth/.