And you thought too much salt was bad for you | Microplastic Pollution in Sea Salt

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  • A new study claims that 90 percent of sea salt contains microplastics. Other studies have found microplastics in tap water, beer, and honey.
  • Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic debris that leach chemicals into the water and pose serious health risks to birds, marine life, and humans.
  • Salt is good for the body, but plastic contamination isn’t. Which salt can I use safely? Himalayan salt or Redmond salt, they come from ancient, unpolluted seabeds. Try purple bamboo salt, which may remove impurities during the heating process.
  • Reduce your use of plastic goods to help minimize the number of microplastics in the ocean. Let’s stop microplastic pollution.

So Sea Salt has got microplastic in it now?!? Do you want me to lick my armpits instead?

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but, that really sucks. Sprinkling some tasty salt on my avocado sandwich is just too good.

Here is a study I have come across from Greenpeace:

The study, which has been published in Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, analyzed 39 various salt brands globally, showing that plastic contamination in sea salt was highest, followed by lake salt, then rock salt – an indicator of the levels of plastic pollution in the areas where the salt was sourced. Only three of the salt brands studied did not contain any microplastic particles in the replicated samples.

That means when you sprinkle salt on your food, you are sprinkling plastic on it too?

Where does the plastic in my salt come from?

We throw roughly 13 million metric tons of plastic into the ocean every year. Surely this will haunt us one day, and it is doing so in a very sneaky way, as microplastic pollution.

microplastic pollution

On average, a drinking bottle is used for 12 min and then takes 100’s if not 1000’s of years to break down.

Since salt is usually being sourced from the ocean, it is pretty evident that it will contain microplastic pollution.

Have you heard about the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”? The most famous of the 5 trash islands, the size of France.

Also known as the gyres, they are an accumulation of plastics and other trash that floats in the ocean, moved by currents and wind.

Since plastic breaks further down into “microplastic,” it eventually ends up in our food chain.

Hang on when you say break down, does it go back into natural resources?

Good question. I am glad you asked. To keep it short, it doesn’t break down like your banana peel that gets eaten by worms and bacteria and turns into soil.

No, plastic breaks down into smaller pieces of plastic. It never turns back into a natural product ever again. It only gets smaller and smaller. We see the impact we have on this planet since the first plastic bottle was created in 1947.

Every hour we dump a truckload of rubbish into the ocean.

This plastic waste has been found in the most remote places in the ocean. Since Sea Salt is a direct product from our oceans, there is no wonder that it contains microplastic. The same goes for fish, muscles, and other seafood, which eventually finds its way on our dinner plate.

microplastic pollution

How does it affect my health?

We are well aware of the adverse impacts of plastic particle pollution in our ecosystems and animals. But with humans, we run into a problem.

Unfortunately, there are few studies with humans yet; they say that plastic hasn’t been in our systems long enough to see the aftermath. What we do know, however, are the chemicals used to make plastic can cause many health-related problems.

  • plastics are hydrophobic, meaning they absorb chemicals from the environment such as PCBs, PBDEs, and PAHs [1]
  • plastics leach additives such as phthalates and BPA, which are endocrine disrupters. [2]
  • plastics are cytotoxic (toxic to living cells) [3]

To sum it up:

Different human health problems like irritation in the eye, vision failure, breathing difficulties, respiratory problems, liver dysfunction, cancers, skin diseases, lung problems, headache, dizziness, birth effect, reproductive, cardiovascular, genotoxic, and gastrointestinal causes for using toxic plastics. Plastics occur in serious environment pollution such as soil pollution, water pollution, and air pollution. The application of proper rules and regulations for the production and use of plastics can reduce the toxic effects of plastics on human health and the environment. ~researchgate.net

That is a scarily long list of many health problems. We know that if ingested by birds and marine life, it usually causes a slow death. It fills up the stomach of the animal, and they starve to death.

We also know that in studies done on fish, microplastics contributed to metabolic disorders and toxic liver effects.

The science behind plastic pollution is quite worrying, which is why I have been filtering my water, and I don’t even drink much beer these days.

Find out if your tap water is drinkable here.

Yes, there is microplastic in beer, ah, but that is another article.

How is Salt made?

These are the three main methods to obtain salt today:

  • Evaporation from seawater
  • Mining salt from the earth
  • Creating salt brines
The most common and cheapest methods are salt brines, where water is pumped below the earth’s surface to dissolve salt deposits and create a brine. This brine is then pumped to the surface and evaporated to produce salt. The salty brine may be treated before evaporation to reduce mineral content, yielding a nearly pure sodium chloride crystal. Used for our standard table salt. Like the name says is found under the earth’s surface from old underground waterways that dried up. It is mined via dynamite and then brought to the earth’s surface, where it is crushed and mainly used for non-food purposes. It is high in minerals but also other impurities. It is made through natural evaporation of shallow seabeds and bays, where the sun and wind do the work. Salty crystals are left behind and collected for sale. This method is the most ancient and can only be done in countries with little to no rainfall. This is a South Korean method where sea salt has been placed into bamboo tubes and heated over a pine fire. This process takes 3 years and is meant to have healing properties.

If you would like to know more about this method here is a two-minute clip from the Great Big Story.

Did you know; Of 220 million tons of salt produced, only 6 % is used for human consumption?!?

Which Salts are safe to use?

According to the new study by researchers in South Korea and Greenpeace East Asia, Laura Parker writes in National Geographic that of 39 salt brands tested, 36 had microplastics in them.

The study, which has been published in Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, analyzed 39 various salt brands globally, showing that plastic contamination in sea salt was highest, followed by lake salt, then rock salt – an indicator of the levels of plastic pollution in the areas where the salt was sourced. Only three of the salt brands studied did not contain any microplastic particles in the replicated samples.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is microplastic-contamination.jpg

Salts to use are salts that come from wells or mountains like the Himalayan salt. Plastic particles are airborne, hence why we can find them in the most remote places around the world.

Mined salts are relatively safe to eat. Because mined salts usually come from ancient seabeds that have not been in touch with plastic pollution. The difficulty in buying these salts is knowing where they actually come from.

There is evidence of plastic contamination in wells worldwide, but it is at a much lower rate than seawater. So salt from a well is also safe to eat.

Then there is bamboo salt, which is supposed to contain no microplastic any more due to the extreme heating process it has undergone. Not the cheapest option, though.

The three salts that were free of plastic came from Taiwan, China, and France.

Conclusion:

When you get your next batch of salt, check and make sure it is either one of those three options above.

If you live in America, perhaps this graph might help you a bit more with your decision. Personally, I would go with Hawaiian or Utah sea salt, but it all depends on how easy access you have to these products.

microplastic pollution

Salts you can buy from Amazon

These salts contain no to minimal amounts of microplastics in them. However, I am no expert, and these are purely products I consume and feel good about sharing.

microplastic pollution

Fleur de sel

Sea Salt from France. In paper packaging. My #1 choice.
$9,90
microplastic pollution

Hawaiian Sea Salt

Infused with red clay, rich in minerals. In glass packaging.
$10.04
microplastic pollution

Redmond Real Salt

It contains very little microplastic but ironically comes in a plastic bag. Not so zero waste.
$10.19
microplastic pollution

Celtic Sea Salt

It contains very little amounts of microplastic. Also in a plastic bag 🙁
$8.99
microplastic pollution

Himalayan Salt

Himalayan rock salt is not completely free off microplastic. Again in a plastic bag 🙁
$14.99
microplastic pollution

Bamboo Salt

Salt from South Korea. Great health benefits. The most expensive one but also the purest.
$254.99

Perhaps the best option here is to go to your bulk food store and bring your mason jars with you so that you can get your salt the zero waste style.

Let’s go zero waste and stop more plastic in the sea.

So there you have it.

Should you stop eating salt altogether?

I don’t think so. But be more aware of what you put into your system. It’s like a car. If you fuel it up with cheap dirty fuel, it won’t run very long. Well, the same goes for our bodies. Fuel it with healthy foods, and your body will last a lot longer.

Let’s be the solution to this ever-growing problem and start with eliminating single-use plastic from our lives. Become a zero waste man! Or woman!

  • Try to buy clothes from natural fibers
  • Make sure your cosmetics have no microbeads in them
  • Use reusable items, such as food storage, coffee cups, and reusable bottles.
  • Say ‘no’ to straws and plastic bags and any unnecessary single-use items.
  • Filter your drinking water and turn your life into a zero waste life.

Hey, what are your thoughts on this subject? How is your zero waste journey going so far? I’d love to hear from you, and I make sure to answer all your questions below.

21 thoughts on “And you thought too much salt was bad for you | Microplastic Pollution in Sea Salt”

  1. I was watching a programme on the subject of plastics in the ocean last night. It’s a scary thought of all that plastic just floating around and eventually breaking down into smaller pieces of plastic. I recently saw a film of plastic bottles etc at the bottom of the ocean where they will remain for as you say hundreds of years and the way it’s going with people dumping rheir rubbish everywhere it is not going to get any better.
    As I said about last night.s tv show regarding plastic the amount of single use plastic containers is unbelievable. They went to a street in the UK as an experiment and asked the householders to bring out all the one use plastic containers and lay them on the street. The street wasn’t that big and there were over 12,000 items brought out.
    The programme tried to get the big firms to change their packaging policy to cut back on the amount of plastics in our shopping. They didn’t seem that interested in changing but hopefully with this being shown on tv they may finally do something about it.
    Thanks for the post, it’s got me thinking.
    Frank

    • I think this is the first step, seeing the problem for what it is and educating people on the matter. Once you understand that it has become a health threat to you it becomes way more personal and if we change our shopping habits the big companies always follow. I just hope it doesn’t take too long. Thanks for your interest. Please share the love, Hendrik.

  2. This article has made me aware of what possible danger our salt here in the Philippines pose to us, Filipino consumers. 

    If people in countries like the USA or Europe are concerned with how much microplastic is present in their salt, then we here should be more worried because or seas here have a higher level of pollution due to government’s inability to regulate the number of toxins being dumped on our seas. 

    Thank you so much, and I think I should share this article with my friends on Facebook to aware them of the possible dangers.

  3. I have said it and I will always keep saying it that we humans would be the reason for our death and peril. To be honest, this is very disheartening to read about concerning how the plastics and microsplastics have really been a major contribution to our downfall concerning ignorance towards the sea and seas salts. Very great piece of article indeed and I will surely take into cognizance this information and various ways to ensure that safety measures are put into place concerning sea salt consumption.

  4. Hallo there Hendrick, 

    Thanks a lot for this detailed information on how plastic is making our lives harder, health wise. I have a friend who is a scientist who was telling me about it but I couldn’t believe that 90% of the ocean salt is contaminated. I just had to search on the web to confirm that. I am guy who likes working with facts and that’s how I got to your site. Thanks a lot for helping me get enlightened on this topic. I know I can’t change much but I’ll try my best to make sure no more plastic is thrown in any water body when I am seeing. I care a lot about the future generation. Cheers.

    • That is great to hear Dave. Yeah, we need to stop using single-use plastic as much as we can, going back to reusable items and companies such as LOOP can do this. Glad to see you on the zerowasteman journey.

  5. NIce and important article about microplastic pollution. In Scandinavian countries, there are no such dirty products like this salt on markets and nobody needs to care about getting microplastics and other stuff when drinking our clean water. But my friends from the US and several 3rd world countries told they need to use some sort of filters when using water in their homes. That is a basic example of what happens if markets are too free; big corporations pay no taxes, lets the job for the state and finally sells filters to make even bigger profits. 

    • Well, I hope you are right. The problem, however, is that microplastic is now being found in the arctic and in the deepest trenches of the ocean. Not one country is free of microplastic pollution. Do you eat fish? Do you drink beer? All of which contain microplastic. We can only stop this crisis by working together as a team.  

  6. Hello there thanks for sharing this wonderful post. Dumping waste around should be completely avoided as it causes so many problems, both to our health and the environment. Looking at dumping these plastics in the water should be completely avoided because this problem it’s causing would affect us all at large. I am glad you took the time to put up this post. Best regards.

  7. This is a very interesting one. For what is worth, there is a need to pay cognizance to the various issues that have showcased itself as a result of the plastic dumps in the rivers and the oceans. The various discoveries here are really not easy to take in, considering that salt is integral to our daily consumption and seeing that it is mixed with various particles that are harmful to our well being is bad. I’d surely try to go for Hawaiian salt henceforth. It is very affordable and accessible here. Thanks

  8. Wow that is crazy! I am not aware that there is plastic in salt. I love salt with my meat and of course on my avocado. After reading your post it means that I am ingesting plastic forever, no wonder we all have health problems. I avoided sugar now I have to watch out for salt too? Great. Microplastics is no joke. Thank you for the warning, I will check my label from now on. 

    • I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Trying to use less plastic in general only has health benefits. You shouldn’t give up on salt just make sure you buy from the ones I recommend or do your own research. P.s.: If you find any more brands that I should put on my list, please let me know. Thanks

  9. Thanks you for giving this wonderful information. The rate at which people drop waste anywhere and even in our water is getting alarming and its effect goes back to affecting our health. I had no idea that dropping plastics in water can be this hazardous to our health. I’m glad to have come across this post. This information should please be passed around.

  10. These statistics are astonishing! 39 salt brands tested, 36 had microplastics. It’s becoming more and more difficult to make healthy choices. In my family, we stopped using regular table salt and switched to sea salt, thought I was doing a really good thing but I needed to do more research I’m guessing.  

    I notice the info on bamboo salt, it’s quite pricy like you mentioned but how long, on average would a bottle last? That might make the cost worthwhile, what do you think? I’ve heard of the great pacific garbage patch and there’s no doubt about how it contributes to the microplastic pollution problem. We all need to do our part to use less plastic.  Very informative, Thanks.

    • It really depends on how much salt you use. The average American eats around 1.2kg of salt per year. So if you look at it like that it’s probably worth investing a little more into your salt.

      Yes join me on the journey to a zerowasteman/woman 🙂

  11. Thanks for putting this together about the salt. I will be coming back to this site often. You have a wealth of material here for healthy living, totally amazing. You rock!

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