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August 13, 2018

Microplastic Contamination in Sea Salt

An ever-increasing level of plastic pollution in the natural environment throughout the world is familiar to all of us as an ugly fact of expanding human population and activity. However, until somewhat recently much less attention was given to microparticles of plastics and other synthetic materials contaminating the food we eat and the water we drink. Not surprisingly, numerous studies of these particulates show toxicity to humans if ingested. The body of research is steadily growing, helping us better understand to what degree human health is being compromised through (often unknowing) consumption of these microplastics.
Plastics can leach synthetic additives such as phthalates, alkylphenols, and bisphenol A, which can be cytotoxic to human cells. Many compounds contained in plastics are known hormone disruptors, and microplastics in particular have been shown to attract microbial pathogens.

According to 2013 research by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Arizona State University, "Everybody is being exposed to some degree [of plastic ingestion] at any given time, from gestation through death. Detectable levels of [the plastic] bisphenol A have been found in the urine of 95% of the adult population of the United States."

The sobering reality is that scientists have struggled to accurately research the impact of plastic on the human body, because they cannot find a control group of humans who have not been exposed. All humans are exposed to plastic pollution in some manner -- through oceans, lakes, rivers, rain and snow, the air, the land, our diets, and/or the products we buy and use. We are all unavoidably contaminated by the synthetics we produce.

Plastic, essentially indestructible unless burned, makes up about half of all human-related waste. The last 45 years have seen the total global output in plastic production climb from 30 million tons in 1970 to 322 million tons in 2015 -- a more than ten-fold increase. One study laments, "Hopes of closing the loop on the plastic waste stream depend on overall recycling rates, which vary widely across the globe, even among developed nations with well-established recycling infrastructure. Europe, for example, recycled 26% of disposable plastics in 2012, while the United States reported rates as low as 8.8% in the same year."

The referenced study analyzed tap water, beer, and sea salt samples for contaminants. Among all sea salt samples analyzed, a total of 461 anthropogenic (human-made) particles were identified. The vast majority (99.3%) of these were classified as fibers, while the remaining particles were identified as fragments. The average length of each fiber was 1.09 mm with a range of 0.1 mm to 5 mm. Of the 12 salt samples, 8 had one or more particles in the second filtration step for a total of 23 particles. The average length of the particles found in the second filtration was 1.05 mm, about 0.04 mm smaller than the particles found in the samples as a whole. The most common particulate color was blue, followed by red/pink, and then clear.

Sherri Mason, a professor of chemistry at the State University of New York at Fredonia, believes sea salt could be more vulnerable to plastic contamination because of how it is made, through a process of dehydration of sea water.

UPDATE: We are very pleased to report that Selina Naturally, maker of the Celtic Sea Salt brand long carried and recommended by Optimal Health Network for enema series protocols, has conducted rigorous testing of its products for microplastics and other pollutants. All testing has indicated no contamination, and supporting certificates have been provided to us by Selina Naturally. Thus we will once again be offering this quality product in selected enema kits beginning in April 2019.

Learn more: Anthropogenic contamination of tap water, beer, and sea salt

Learn more: We are living on a plastic planet. What does it mean for our health?


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