Pass the Microplastics: Pollution in Your Table Salt

New research finds microplastics in more than 90 percent of table salt brands sampled worldwide


Plastic pollution is ubiquitous and we are ingesting it. This is old news. In recent years, studies have pointed to tiny plastic particles in bottled water, beer, sea life and even the air we breathe. If you’ve been meaning to cut back on your daily sodium intake, the results of an alarming new study should provide some fresh motivation: 90 percent of table salt brands worldwide contain microplastics.

In a first-of-its-scale effort, researchers from South Korea and Greenpeace East Asia analyzed the geographical spread of microplastics in table salts and correlations with plastic pollution in the environment. They tested 39 salt brands; 36 contained microplastics.

The study, which was published in Environmental Science & Technology, looked at sea, lake and rock salt samples from 21 countries in Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia. Findings show dramatic

differences in the density of microplastics among samples from different brands, but certain consistencies indicate correlations with geographic plastic emissions. For example, Asian brands contained the most microplastics, with the highest quantities found in salt from Indonesia, considered the second-largest plastic polluter in the world. Also telling: microplastic levels were highest in sea salt, followed by lake salt and then rock salt.

According to the new study, the average adult consumes approximately 2,000 microplastics per year through salt. So, we’re all sprinkling tiny pieces of plastic all over our food. What does that mean for our health?

There are hundreds of studies on the pervasive nature of marine plastic pollution, but “major knowledge gaps” remain in scientific understanding of how microplastics impact human health. In short, more research is needed — and so is more action to stop the cycle of pollution at its source.