An analysis by researchers in South Korea found that microplastics are widespread in sea salt. They estimate that adults, on average, are ingesting nearly 2,000 microplastics per year from sea salt alone.
It all started with an argument at our favorite buy-in-bulk grocery store. When deciding which broth to purchase, my husband and I strongly differed in our opinions. I had selected low-sodium vegetable broth, while he advised no-salt-added bone broth, a decision guided by a study about microplastics in sea salt he read earlier that day.
I admit, I became extremely frustrated. Two broth options; one supported my wishes to follow a vegetarian diet, but would also apparently offer my family and me the extra ingredient of plastic in our homemade soup.
It seems the dilemma of “What the heck am I supposed to feed my family” is ever-present as we learn more and more about our food supply. Knowledge is truly power and the more I’ve learned has shifted our diet to include homegrown, local, and organic food choices more often than not.
Even though I won the battle in the grocery store that day, I later read the study, and vowed most of the time I would choose a better option.
Microplastics are teeny tiny (less than 5 millimeters long) pieces of plastic that originate from all types of plastic that we use—from shopping bags to bottles. Apparently, we’ve known that microplastics have been in sea salt for years. This makes sense considering plastic often unfortunately ends up in the ocean. If you haven’t already, Google the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
What the latest research reveals is how significant the problem of microplastics in sea salt actually is. Researchers tested nearly 40 brands of sea salt and found that 36 of them contained microplastics. Higher concentrations of microplastics were found in sea salt originating from Asian countries, most notably from Indonesia. Sea salt from Europe, Africa, North and South America contained microplastics as well.
At this time, there is not a scientific consensus as to how harmful microplastics actually are to human health. We do know that we are ingesting them, and one study found that our stool may contain up to 9 different types of plastic. Animal research has indicated intestinal and liver issues caused by microplastics. This information combined with the less than desirable effects of plastic additives (often endocrine disrupters) is enough for me to make some changes.
Microplastics In Sea Salt: What Can We Do About It?
Teaching the youngest among us about the importance of reducing plastic consumption is a fantastic start. Along with this education, we have to make changes ourselves. Purchase foods in glass jars, rather than in plastics. Bring your own bags and reusable bottles. Invest in more wooden toys than plastic when possible. The possibilities are many. Just like in the Lorax (by Dr. Seuss) “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”
You may consider purchasing and using salt from mines without pollution, such as Himalayan sea salt.
You can also limit foods processed with sea salt and choose alternatives prepared without salt (no-salt-added beans or good old-fashioned air-popped popcorn instead of chips with sea salt for example).
Photo: Larina Marina/Shutterstock