Study: The salt in your kitchen could come with microplastics
We've included some tips on choosing cleaner brands of salt the next time you do your groceries.
Due to its convenient properties, plastic has become common in modern society. From packaging food, drinks, and even tools and equipment. However, when plastic leaches into the environment, it can contaminate everything – and come back to “pollute” our bodies – like sea salt contaminated with plastic.
A recent study from Greenpeace has discovered that 90 % of the salt everyone around the world cooks with comes with microplastics – especially salt purchased in Asia. According to the study, generally adults ingests 10 grams of salt daily. That amounts to over 2,000 microplastics each year!
If you were wondering what microplastics are, they are defined as “small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life.” They can also come in the form of “tiny pieces of polyethylene plastic added to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers and toothpastes.”
The alarming study, published in the Journal Environmental Science & Technology, looked into 39 different brands of salt sold in 21 countries, such as Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Scientists discovered these microplastics in 36 out of 39 of the brands, with the highest concentration of microplastics hailing from salt used in Asia.
Still, each salt brand has vastly different amounts of microplastic. The salt brands contaminated with the most microplastics were determined to be from Indonesian sea salt samples.
Furthermore, the study also concluded that Asia is responsible for much of Earth’s plastic pollution. According to Mikyoung Kim, a Greenpeace East Asia campaigner, this finding suggests that the health of Asian residents, as well as their ecosystem, are in danger due to “severe maritime microplastics pollution”.
“Recent studies have found plastics in seafood, wildlife, tap water, and now in salt. It is clear that there is no escape from this plastics crisis, especially as it continues to leak into our waterways and oceans,” adds Kim.
However, there might be a ray of hope.
The research found that of the 39 salt brands they examined, the following three were free of invisible plastics:
- Taiwanese refined sea salt
- Mainland China’s refined rock salt
- France’s unrefined, sun-dried sea salt
Furthermore, researchers found the top contenders that were tainted with the most plastic, in descending order, were:
- Sea salt
- Lake salt
- Rock salt
The report also concludes that knowing how badly contaminated the salt is a measure of how badly polluted its source is. Still, scientists have a lot to uncover, such as how these “invisible” plastics will affect us if they enter our bodies, and if it will lead to health consequences in the long run.
Do take note which type of salt you’re buying the next time you’re in the supermarket, parents. You may be unintentionally adding plastic into your meals. Otherwise, perhaps do stick to the safer options mentioned before!
Parents, we know you’re anxious about your children and what they eat. Here are some reminders about salt which you might want to heed:
- Babies under 12 months old should not be fed salt or sugar at all.
- Salt is a vital component of many dishes, and without it there will be no taste. However, there are substitutes that you can use to make meals tasty, like aromatics (think garlic, ginger, chilli), herbs (such as thyme, rosemary and dill) and spices (bay leaf, star anise and cloves).
- excessively salt intake is a common cause of many diseases and can cause complications like high blood pressure. Do remember that sprinkling your dishes with less salt will also benefit your health.