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Scientists raise concerns about tiny plastic fibers discovered in Great Lakes waters and fish

In this July 28, 2014 photo provided by Rachel Ricotta are microfibers, exceedingly fine plastic fibers, that were taken from inside the body of a Great Lakes fish. Scientists who have reported that the Great Lakes are awash in tiny bits of plastic are raising new alarms about a little-noticed form of the debris turning up in sampling nets: synthetic fibers from garments, cleaning cloths and other consumer products. (AP Photo/Rachel Ricotta)

In this July 28, 2014 photo provided by Rachel Ricotta are microfibers, exceedingly fine plastic fibers, that were taken from inside the body of a Great Lakes fish. Scientists who have reported that the Great Lakes are awash in tiny bits of plastic are raising new alarms about a little-noticed form of the debris turning up in sampling nets: synthetic fibers from garments, cleaning cloths and other consumer products. (AP Photo/Rachel Ricotta)  (The Associated Press)

First, it was tiny plastic beads from facial washes and toothpaste turning up in the Great Lakes. Scientists now are raising concerns about fibers from synthetic clothing.

Sherri Mason, a chemist with the State University of New York at Fredonia, says Friday that polyester fleeces and similar garments can shed thousands of fibers when laundered. They're making their way to wastewater treatment plants and then into the lakes.

She and colleagues have collected the fibers along with plastic beads and other debris when dragging nets across the lake surfaces in recent years. A 2013 expedition on southern Lake Michigan yielded an unusually high number of fibers.

Fish sometimes eat tiny plastics. Mason says fibers are getting stuck inside their bodies more than other microplastics are.