Maybe you will be surprised at this news, or maybe it will just confirm what you knew all along: that anything that comes from the ocean is bound to be contaminated by what scientists call microplastics. Researchers as of late have warned the consumers of the likelihood that their seafood likely consumed plastic before its death. But, not everyone eats seafood, and certainly, there are a lot of people that did not heed that warning.
Contamination of salt is something else altogether.
Most of the people all around the world consume salt on a daily basis. Whether it is by directly pouring table salt onto the food or through the consumption of some other foods which have already been salted.
Just in this year, several different groups of researchers have confirmed that plastics were mixed in with dozens of different salts that are found in the stores around the world. Among the latest reports is one from August last year, in which researchers have found plastics in all 21 types of salt that were tested, and a still-unreleased report from the State University of New York at Fredonia, where about 12 salts from U.S. grocery stores were also tested.
According to Sherri Mason, the leader of the State University of New York study, based on the amount of salt recommended for consumption per day, which is less than an ounce, humans could also be consuming up to 660 particles of plastic each year. Since an estimated 90% of Americans eat more than the recommended amounts every day, this number could be even higher. Mason said:
“Not just are plastics pervasive in our society regarding everyday use, but they are also pervasive in the environment. Plastics are ubiquitous, in the air, as well as water, the seafood we eat, the beer we drink, the salt that we use – plastics are just everywhere.”
Humans dump about 13 million tons of plastic into the ocean every year.
So, it is not surprising that the material is so prevalent in sea salt. The issue of plastic pollution could soon rival the effects of climate change, though the production of plastic is the main contributor to climate change, so the two are already heavily intertwined. The majority of the plastic which wind up in the ocean are single-use bottles and microbeads from face washes and toothpaste. No matter what its origin is, all the plastic eventually breaks down and becomes one of the many pieces of microplastic floating around in the ocean.
Unluckily, the true effect of ingested plastic in the body of humans is unknown for one scary reason: scientists are still unable to locate any people that have not already been exposed to the ingestion of plastic. Some researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Arizona State University said:
“Every person is being exposed to some degree at any given time, from gestation through death. There have also been detectable levels of the plastic bisphenol A found in the urine of 95% of the adult population in the U.S.”
This is truly concerning, but as we do not know how long salt has been contaminated with plastic, it is not exactly surprising. A report on salts from recently also comes soon after news of plastic being found in tap water, so to describe the harmful material as “ubiquitous” is completely accurate. Even worse thing is that humans show no signs of slowing down their use of plastic and the horrible disposal of it in the ocean. One report from recently has found that plastic bottles are consumed at a rate of 1 million per second all over the world, and that number is expected to quadruple by 2050.
Juan Conesa, a professor that also researched sea salt at the University of Alicante in Spain said:
“There is no clear impact on human health, as there are no studies on that subject. But, the increase of plastics in general in the environment is also going to increase exposure.”
The salt that is found in the grocery store originates from all sorts of areas, which include Australia, as well as, France, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Portugal and South Africa. So, it is impossible to simply buy salt which does not come from a contaminated area. As Mason said, these results are about more than just finding a different source, as well as ignoring the facts. A change in the way that humans rely on plastic as a whole has to be evaluated. Mason said:
“I hope that what comes from this is not that consumers just switch brands and try to find something that will be table salt or mined salt. People also want to disconnect and say, ‘It is OK if I go to Starbucks every day and get that disposable coffee cup…’ We need to focus on the flow of plastic and the pervasiveness of plastics in our society, as well as find minerals to be used instead.”