If you're putting ordinary table salt on your french fries -- and plenty of other things -- at home or when you're out, you're getting more than you might have bargained for. That's because around 90 percent of table salt on the market today is contaminated with something called microplastics, according to a 2018 study published in Environmental Science & Technology. The study, and others like it, indicated that salt imported from Asia has the highest concentration of microplastics, but that the tiny particles are found in salt from other regions, as well.
What are Microplastics, and Why are They in Your Salt?
In recent years, five other studies have also been published about microplastics in the oceans and in consumer products, including food. According to the National Ocean Service, which is part of NOAA, microplastics come from a number of sources. However, the largest source for microplastics is the breakdown of the plastic waste that is making its way into the world's oceans in larger quantities every year.
Should You be Avoiding Salt in Your Food?
The study in Environmental Science & Technology estimated that each adult is consuming around 2,000 microplastics every year, just through their salt consumption. But is this dangerous? No one really knows. Another study, which was published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, shows limited evidence that microplastics are causing harm.
There are a number of knowledge gaps when it comes to what microplastics are doing inside the human body, and whether they might cause long-term problems even if they don't appear harmful in the short term. Avoiding salt doesn't appear to be the answer, though, as there are other sources of these microplastics, along with more significant pollution issues faced by the planet and all of us who live here.