Sea Salt Contains an Alarming Amount of Microplastics

You might want to reconsider your consumption of sea salt. Yair Aronshtam/Flickr

Sea salt has become a trendy source for salt compared to refined varieties (even though there are little or no measurable health benefits to using sea salt over other forms of sodium chloride), but its perception as a "natural" alternative could soon change after a slew of studies looking at the plastic content of sea salts.

It turns out that one kilogram of sea salt can contain as many as 600 microplastics, according to a study out of East China Normal University. To put that in perspective, if you consume the daily recommended amount of salt (around 5 grams per day), that means you're ingesting about three microplastics per day. And most Americans consume much more salt than that.

Even more alarming, this particular study didn't sort out and count all the microplastics it found in sea salt individually. Instead, the results merely represent an estimate based on the proportion of particles that were recovered. So the actual number of microplastics might be even larger than the 600 that were concluded in this study.

Results are also likely to vary depending on where the sea salt was harvested, and the particular methods used to collect it. Even so, it's a concerning find that might have you re-thinking your sea salt consumption.

The problem is part of a larger epidemic of plastic pollution, which tends to accumulate in our oceans and waterways. Most concerns about plastics entering the food chain have tended to revolve around seafood, but microplastics can just as easily be captured in ocean mineral deposits like salt.

Microplastic pollution isn't just reserved to the sea, however. It has been found to enter the food chain on land, too. Honey and beer have been shown to contain unusually high amounts of the stuff, and plastics have even been found at frightening levels among common indoor dust, where it settles on our food and in our kitchens and ends up in our bodies through consumption that way.

As it's said, you are what you eat. And unless our production of plastics is curbed significantly, plastic pollution could soon become one of the largest health threats facing the public, if it hasn't become so already. When it's in our salt, our water, and even our dust, it's ubiquitous and unavoidable.