Athletic clothing and shoes lie on the ground during early morning training on the sports ground of the University of Eldoret, western Kenya, March 21, 2016. Synthetic microfibers in leisure clothing and athletic wear could have hazardous effects on ocean life. Reuters

Plastic and its incorporation into clothing manufacturing have left a hazardous imprint on the environment, especially when it comes to the oceans and sea life.

While not all clothing is necessarily harmful to the environment, synthetic fabrics could pose a major issue when it comes to the health of the ocean. Tiny fibers found in clothing have made their way into oceans and could cause lasting damage to marine life, research indicates.

To better understand the lasting effects of microplastics on the environment and within the food chain for sea life, researchers on the Gulf Coast plan a two-year study focusing on the tiny plastics and microfibers in local waters, spanning from south of Texas to the Florida Keys, the New York Post reported Tuesday.

The research initiative, led by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, will build on data collected from the state of Florida — about a year’s worth of information — that focuses primarily on synthetic microfibers and their effect on the environment. Synthetic microfibers — found in popular apparel like leisure clothing, gym clothes and other athletic wear — are becoming a bigger problem, especially when it comes to marine life.

Read: The Effects Of Pollution And The Children Affected

Clothing designed with synthetic materials, like polyester or nylon, can shed the fibers when garments are washed. The microfibers then find their way into waterways and eventually can end up in oceans. The fibers are particularly concerning because they are small enough to be consumed by ocean life, like fish, which can have lasting “physical and chemical impacts,” a study conducted by the University of California at Santa Barbara found.

The fibers are even smaller than microbeads — the tiny plastic beads that were commonly found in skincare and cosmetic products like exfoliating face washes — which were banned in 2015.

That said, it’s likely consumers won’t have to resort to throwing out their stretch pants and fleece pullovers just yet. The Post reported washing machine manufacturers might have to address the issue to ensure that machines are made to staunch the flow of microfibers that could make their way into oceans.

“It would be really great if the washing machine companies would get on board and come up with a filter to trap these microfibers,” Caitlin Wessel, a regional coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program said. “I think there’s a big push right now — nobody really disagrees that marine debris is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

The experimental results published by the University of California at Santa Barbara in September 2016, revealed an average 1.7 grams of microfibers were released from a washing machine and as much as 40 percent of it ended up in oceans, lakes and rivers.

The research regarding microfibers and their effects on the food chain are ongoing, and researchers are continuing to investigate the types of plastics that might pose the biggest threats in Gulf waters.