Microfibre pollution hotspots in river sediments adjacent to South Africa’s coastline
River sediment samples collected in the lower reaches of catchments along South Africa’s coastline have microfibre levels ranging from 0 to 567 fibres/dm3. This range is similar to those of sandy beach sediments along the coast. Much higher microfibre levels are observed in KwaZulu-Natal and the Wild Coast region, compared to the Cape South Coast. There is a significant positive relationship between river sediment microfibre levels, and the percentage of households in the catchment area that do not have access to piped water. The implication is that rural communities that rely on rivers as their primary or only source of water, including for directly washing clothes in, may be significantly contributing to microfibre pollution of freshwater aquatic ecosystems. If microfibre pollution is found to have ecosystem or human health implications such as chemical toxicity or fibre-induced mesothelioma, this will be detrimental to river biota and these communities.
Keywords: microfibres, river pollution, sediment, freshwater system