Tag: pollution

Sound The Alarm: 90% Of Table Salt Tests Positive For Microplastics

Your salt shaker may be hiding a dirty secret. Microplastics are lurking in nearly 100% of table salt found on grocery store shelves, dining tables, and in kitchens worldwide.

If you thought only marine life was suffering the brunt of human’s ill-fated love affair with plastic, think again. Thanks to microfibers from clothing, widespread use of disposable plastic items, and inadequate environmental regulations, plastic has entangled itself within the food web.

An Ancient Spice Sullied

In a lot of places, sea water is often left to evaporate to leave behind piles of salt. Sadly, because of the proliferation of plastics in the oceans, salt processed in Asian countries tends to have higher levels of microplastics.


Sea salt is valued for its strong flavor, multiple health benefits, and as a rich source of nutrients. Consumers should take caution when using sea salt, as it has more contamination from microplastics than lake salt and rock salt.

Plastics With Nowhere To Go

Both wealthy industrial nations and poorer countries have contributed to plastic pollution. Microplastics form from ingredients in cosmetics, apparel, and inexpensive mass-produced goods. Oceans are not the only places that are littered with tons of plastics, as coastlines, beaches, and natural waterways get bogged down with refuse.


According to sources, by 2015 the world managed to produce 7.8 billion tons of plastic. The mismanagement of plastic waste around the world has led to plastics polluting rivers and oceans. Humans still need to work on reducing the demand for plastics and adhere to responsible disposal methods to prevent entry to the global food chain.

Beyond The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not the only sore point where plastic pollution persists. The need for solutions to clean up the oceans and land where there are microplastics present is urgent.

When scientists discovered an enzyme that could potentially consume stubborn oil-based plastics in 2016,  it was a glimmer of hope for dealing with the plastic problem. Efforts have been stepped up to scour the world’s oceans for plastics, with the hope of reversing the damage inflicted on the planet’s fragile ecosystem.

Food Chain Disrupted

Plastics in the ocean are not only a threat to marine life, as microplastic-tinged sea salt has been observed for years. Austrian researchers recently studied a small pool of participants and discovered the presence of microplastics in samples of human stool. The study’s results are troubling, as the participants all came from different countries and followed their typical eating habits.


There are ten common microplastics that are regularly found in the water, air, table salt, and even bottled drinks. Polyethylene is typically used in plastic shopping bags and bottles. Polypropylene is used in rope and bottle caps.

Human health is at risk. Plastics can build up in the intestines over time, triggering inflammation and stressing the immune system. Animals have been studied for years for evidence of microplastics in the food chain, and now humans can be added to the list as being affected.

MORE: Even washing our clothes is putting massive amounts of plastic into the world’s water.

Did You Know Our Clothing Pollutes The Ocean Too?

The unfortunate truth of today is that people are polluting the Earth’s oceans at unparalleled rates. While littering and plastic straws are surely to blame, there’s another unlikely culprit: our clothing. Here’s how and why this is such a problem.

Synthetics Are Everywhere

A lot of our clothes today are made from plastics. Synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic are all examples of these materials. What’s even more shocking, is that these plastic fibers make up roughly 60 percent of the material used to manufacture clothes across the entire world.

The reason why these fibers are so popular is understandable. Not only are they extremely cheap, but they’re versatile too. Clothing made from synthetic fibers are normally more stretchy and breathable than say cotton or wool. Although convenient, a major problem with synthetics is what happens when they’re being washed.

What Comes Off In The Wash

Tiny plastic microfibers from all synthetic clothing fall off. This happens when we are merely wearing the clothes, and even when we wash them. And where do you think those microfibers end up? That’s right, in our oceans.

This is because the microfibers are so small that washing machine filters are unable to catch them. After the microfibers end up passing through our sewage systems, the wastewater is then dumped into rivers and other bodies of water, carrying massive amounts of plastic clothing fibers along with it.

“We found that in a typical wash, 700,000 fibers could come off,” said Imogen Napper, a marine scientist at the University of Plymouth. Napper co-authored a study in 2016 which focused on the microfibers that are shed from synthetic clothing.

“A large proportion will get caught by the sewage treatment works, [but] even that small proportion that does fall through is going to accumulate . . . There’s no effective way to remove them.” Napper continued. The microfiber issue has gotten so bad that its estimated roughly 85% of human-made debris on shorelines worldwide is made up from these tiny synthetic materials.

What’s more, small fish such as plankton tend to accidentally ingest these microfibers. Then, other fish eat the plankton and the microfibers move up the food chain. It’s become such a problem that nearly a quarter of the seafood sold in fish markets in California contained plastic and fibrous material in their gut.

How Do We Fix This?

Such a monumental problem doesn’t come with an easy fix, unfortunately. But there are still steps we can take to lessen the damage of synthetic fibers on our oceans.

“Washing machines need to be designed to reduce emissions of fibers to the environment; at the moment they are not,” said Mark Browne, an environmental scientist at the University College Dublin.

While we await more efficient washing machines, there are still small steps individuals can take to reduce the impact of microfiber pollution. These include buying less synthetic clothing as well as washing our clothes only when necessary.

While these efforts may seem small, it’s the least we can do to help save our oceans from microfiber pollution.