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The Low Down on Micro-plastics in Sea Salt

The Low Down on Micro-plastics in Sea Salt

Salts are pretty much salts, except for bonus micro-plastics if yours comes from the sea.

There are now a number of studies that have been conducted on micro-plastics in sea salts around the world - USA, China, Spain across more than 50 brands of salts.

The bottom line is that there are micro-plastics in almost all of them (mainly from polyethylene and polypropylene - the most common type being from the materials used to make single use plastic bottled waters.)

Realistically, the micro-plastics count variance between brands is irrelevant. What is relevant is that we now live in a world where micro-plastics form part of our background. It is simply impossible to get them out of our food chain and they exist at every level of it.

One of the studies in 2017 extracted micro-plastics like particles larger than 149 μm from 17 salt brands originating from 8 different countries, including Australia. These results were published in USA National Library of Medicine and as noted, they exposed the presence of micro-plastics.

Specifically, the most common plastic polymers were polypropylene (40.0%) and polyethylene (33.3%). Fragments were the primary form of micro-plastics (63.8%) followed by filaments (25.6%) and films (10.6%). 

There are varying amounts of micro-plastics found in different salts, the bottom line is that via sea salt, we are ingesting up to 600 particles of micro-plastics each year, based on eating 2.5 grams of salt a day. Thinking about all the sea produce we eat - like fish and shellfish, who also contain microbeads and micro-plastics, it makes sense to minimise options you don't need.

The problem with these tiny micro-plastics is that we really don't know what affect they are going to have on our health. It's hard to imagine that plastic in our blood streams is going to end well. 

Setting aside bonus micro-plastics, if you have ever been confused by the many choices of salts available, don't be - there really isn't much in it beyond the fact that the salt you choose will be driven by how you live and what you want cooking stage you want to use it for. 

Refined Table Salt is the traditional western salt you buy in the plastic container at the supermarket and is easy to find and buy, but be aware that it is more heavily processed than other forms of salt and contains anti-caking additives to make it fine and smooth. It also has added iodine.

Sea salt is the the purest form of salt and is harvested from sea water or salt lakes and uses a system of ponds and natural evaporation. It makes  with close to 100 percent pure sodium chloride. (With a few micro-plastics of course.)

Rock Salt comes from deep shaft mining - a process that is pretty much like any other kind of shaft mining. These underground salt deposits are typically from old underwater seas.

Celtic Sea Salt is one of the most 'pure salts' and is quite moist and a little greyish.  It is often used in baking and directly on finished food.  

Himalayan salt has wide ranging uses dependent upon how you buy it and ranges in colour from white to red, although it is most often pink. Along with Celtic sea salt, it is the most pure salt you can buy and contains a range of essential trace elements. Because of this, it is extensively used in personal healing and detoxing as well as in the kitchen. 

Kosher salt is a coarse, flaky salt that is often added to finished food. Foodies like it because it add small, delicate salt bursts and crunch to the food wearing it. 

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Science Notes

In terms of nutritional value, most experts believe that the type of salt you consume does not matter too much.

And while table salt is commonly framed as the ‘baddie’ of the salt world, what is actually more important is ensuring that overall salt intake does not exceed recommended daily intakes.

For most individuals, this is 2,300 milligrams a day.

If you are using salt for health purposes as well as culinary, you should probably consider Himalayan or Celtic salt if you want to limit the range of salt in your pantry. 

Related Tip

To better understand the health risks associated with salt consumption, further development in extraction protocols are needed to isolate anthropogenic particles smaller than 149 μm.