A new study finds that your favorite spice may be contaminated with tiny plastic particles—yum!
Whether sprinkled on steamed vegetables or atop a chocolate chip cookie, a pinch of sea salt is a welcome addition to pretty much any food as far as we're concerned. But we may be adding more than just the spice when using that shaker—many brands of salt are contaminated with tiny plastic particles, says a new Chinese study. (P.S. This Dirty Item In Your Kitchen may give you food poisoning.)
In the study, published in the online journal Environmental Science and Technology, a team of researchers collected 15 brands of common salts (sourced from ocean, lakes, wells, and mines) sold at supermarkets throughout China. The scientists were looking for microplastics, the tiny plastic particles left over in various human products plastic bottles and bags, that are usually no larger than 5 millimeters in size.
They found unusually high amounts of these microplastics in common table salt, but the largest contamination was actually in sea salt—at around 1,200 plastic particles per pound.
While you may think this sounds like a problem only for folks living in China, the country is actually the world’s largest salt producer, so even those living thousands of miles away (i.e. America) would still likely affected by this problem, reports Medical Daily. “Plastics have become such a ubiquitous contaminant, I doubt it matters whether you look for plastic in sea salt on Chinese or American supermarket shelves,” said Sherri Mason, Ph.D., who studies plastic pollution.
The researchers calculated that an individual who consumes the recommended intake of salt from the World Health Organization (5 grams) would ingest about 1,000 plastic particles each year. But since most Americans consume double the daily recommended sodium count, that's a conservative estimate.
What then does this really mean for our health? Experts don't yet know what kind of damage consuming such large amounts of microplastics (that are also found in seafood) can have on our systems, and much more research is needed. But it's pretty safe to say, ingesting tiny particles of plastic isn't good for us.
So if you're looking for a reason to kick your salt habit, this may as well be it.