Report finds microplastics in more than 90% of table salt

People could be ingesting approximately 2,000 microplastics each year through commercial salt alone without knowing how harmful the effects could be.

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According to a new report, more than 90 percent of commercial table salts contain microplastics due to rampant plastic pollution across the world. In a separate study released earlier this month, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé were named as the largest polluters of single-use plastics throughout 42 countries and six continents.

The recently released study, co-designed by Professor Seung-Kyu Kim at Incheon National University in South Korea and Greenpeace East Asia, analyzed salt samples from 21 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. Out of the 39 commercial salt brands that were tested, only three brands did not contain microplastics. Those three brands were from Taiwan, which uses refined sea salt; China, which uses refined rock salt; and France, which uses unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation.

“Recent studies have found plastics in seafood, wildlife, tap water, and now in salt. It’s clear that there is no escape from this plastics crisis, especially as it continues to leak into our waterways and oceans,” said Mikyoung Kim, Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia. “We need to stop plastic pollution at its source. For the health of people and our environment, it’s incredibly important that corporations reduce their reliance on throwaway plastics immediately.”

Published this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the report noted that the highest concentration of microplastics were found in commercial salt sold in Indonesia. The study also indicated that concentrations of microplastics were highest in sea salt, followed by lake salt, and then rock salt.

Estimating that an average adult consumes 10 grams of salt per day, the report concluded that people could be ingesting approximately 2,000 microplastics each year through commercial salt alone without knowing how harmful the effects could be. According to a study released earlier this year, microplastics make up 94 percent of an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic within the expanding Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

“The findings suggest that human ingestion of microplastics via marine products is strongly related to plastic emissions in a given region,” said Professor Seung-Kyu Kim, corresponding author of the study. “In order to limit our exposure to microplastics, preventative measures are required, such as controlling the environmental discharge of mismanaged plastics and more importantly, reducing plastic waste.”

Earlier this month, Greenpeace and the Break Free From Plastic coalition released a report accusing Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé of being the worst plastic polluters across the planet. According to their study, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé brands accounted for 64 to 70 percent of all the branded plastic pollution in North America and South America.

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