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Those Christmas socks in your stocking are harming the environment

With Christmas here, along with the cold weather, it’s very likely that under that holiday tree are heaps of nicely wrapped presents filled with Christmas socks that keep you warm during the winter frost. But as science and technology would have it, those traditional wool and cotton socks took a new direction, creating socks that keep you dry, warm, and kill odor-causing bacteria.

Socks, and other athletic clothing now contain silver nanoparticles that kill bacteria, but in return, wreak havoc on our environment and waterways. Their detrimental impact, according to recent scientific research at the University of Essex, begins at the manufacturing stage where water is used in production. That water then leaches those toxic particles into the waterways, estuaries, and coastlines.

These tiny nanoparticles are between 1 and 100 nanometers in size, so small that they are easy to sneak into clothing, food packaging and more. Their effect is devastating to our planet’s major source of oxygen – the oceans, virtually suffocating them, and disrupting their essential work that also includes trapping C02 emissions. The ocean coastal areas boast micro-algae, responsible for most of this carbon and oxygen reprocessing.

A two-year research project, led by Dr. Claire Passarelli and Professor Graham Underwood of the School of Biological Sciences at Essex University, was developed to discover the full impact of these toxins to the life giving micro-algae and the biodiversity of our coastlines. Gathering mud and water from the Essex coast for testing and creating a naturally occurring system of outdoor tidal tanks, they can determine the actual damage caused to these essential systems. The results of these tests will deliver the environmental impact of silver nanoparticles used in socks, and titanium nanoparticles, which make up between 5-10% of sunscreens.

According to Dr. Passarelli, ““These nanoparticles are toxic chemicals but there is no legislation around them being released into our waters. By using different experimental tanks to monitor different scenarios using natural light and temperatures in different seasons we can find out the real impact these nanoparticles are having on our coastline.”

“This project will provide information to guide policy-making on nanoparticle disposal and on environmental quality standards for nanoparticle concentrations.”

Sometimes scientific interjection into our products can be extremely helpful and productive, in this case however, sticking with cotton and wool for your Christmas socks is much more environmental friendly.

Credit: author Tina Volpe

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