Plastic pollution is everywhere, from inside the guts of deep sea creatures to even our tap water. As further testament to how common these man-made particles are becoming, scientists have more evidence that these plastics are making their way into our bodies.
According to a draft study seen by The Guardian, new research has shown that microplastics can be found in many of the sea salts you sprinkle on your food. The studies looked at 12 different kinds of salt, 10 of which were sea salts, which were for sale in US grocery stores.
Based on their findings, the researchers claim that Americans could be eating 660 particles of plastic a year if they follow daily recommended dietary allowances of salt.
Microplastics are small pieces of plastic, usually no longer than a sesame seed, although they can be microscopic. They arise from a variety of sources, although a major contributor is larger pieces of plastic pollution breaking down into smaller pieces. Another big contributor is microbeads found in cosmetic products, face scrubs, and toothpaste. The exact quantity of these microplastics in the ocean is unknown, however, if the latest studies are anything to go by then they are utterly ubiquitous.
“Not only are plastics pervasive in our society in terms of daily use, but they are pervasive in the environment,” lead researcher Sherri Mason, a professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, told the Guardian. Plastics are “ubiquitous, in the air, water, the seafood we eat, the beer we drink, the salt we use – plastics are just everywhere.”
Scientists are racing towards understanding the effects of microplastics on human health, with many experts in the field urging for more research to be done.
"We find tiny pieces of plastics and synthetic fibers in every sample of seawater we study from around the world," Professor Tamara Galloway, a leading marine pollution expert who was not involved in this new study, said last year. "We also find them in marine animals including mussels and crabs. Despite this, we know nothing of the risks they pose to human health."
This isn’t the first scientific study to find concerning amounts of microplastics in sea salt. In 2015, a study found that sea salt samples purchased in China were contaminated with microplastics, often in concentrations as high as 681 plastic particles for every kilogram of sea salt. Earlier this year, a study in Nature Scientific Reports found microplastics in 16 out of 17 salt brands originating from eight different countries.
Regardless of its effects on the human body, these studies are all damning indications of the world's problem with polluting plastic. If current trends continue, plastic rubbish in the ocean will outweigh fish by 2050.