Because the ocean is now pretty polluted with plastic and a cocktail of chemicals from industry and agriculture, sea salt carries with it a range of chemicals and pollutants known to be dangerous to our health. Mercury, lead, organophosphates and more were found in common commercial salt brands as far back as the 1970’s. The new kid on the block is microplastics and along with other pollutants, they’re being found in sea, lake and even rock salts.
Microplastic particles originate from the vast sea of plastic pollution on land in rivers and floating around in marine environments where salt is sourced. Although microplastics enter the food chain in many ways - via seafood and tap water, they’re highest in sea salt because the evaporation process concentrates them along with the minerals into the final product and they were found in 90 percent of salt brands tested worldwide. A 2019 study looking at the origins of microplastics by analysing globally produced salt, found that salt sourced from the ocean showed the highest levels of plastic contamination but that microplastics were also present in lake and rock salts such as the pink salt from the Himalayas.
Scientists fear that much smaller plastic particles - nanoplastics - exist, accumulating toxic chemicals present in the ocean like tiny sponges, these nanoplastics are small enough to enter the bloodstream. “It is the really small stuff we get worried about, as they can get through the membranes in the gut and the bloodstream – that is the real fear,” said Rachel Hurley from the University of Manchester and colleagues in their report, published in Nature Geoscience.
Plastic pollution in the environment has reached a remarkable scale. “Over the last few years, whenever scientists have gone out to look for plastic in the ocean, they have almost always found it. Whether on the remote ocean floor, in the ice in the Arctic, in the stomachs of seabirds and fish, or now in sea salt,” says Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer at Utrecht University in the Netherlands who studies global ocean circulation and plastic pollution. “I suspect it does not matter whether you look for plastic in sea salt on Chinese, British or American supermarket shelves, it appears to be a worldwide problem”.
It is hard to know just how much microplastic is out there. New research indicates that the number of microplastics contaminating the world’s rivers and oceans is even greater than once thought. A 2019 report in The Guardian highlighted the highest microplastic contamination yet tested anywhere in the world in the River Tame, near Manchester UK. Which had more than 500,000 microplastic particles per square metre in the top 10cm of the river bed. That is 50% more than the previous record, found in beach sediments from South Korea.
In the context of these stark facts, the value of protected and unpolluted environments becomes even more evident. Lake Deborah is one of those pure and protected environments and we count ourselves extremely lucky to be able to sustainably harvest the pure ancient sea salt that the lake gifts to us every year.
Our salt is independently tested as free of man made pollutants, microplastics and heavy metals. This testing is above and beyond the organic certification that we also hold to ensure that no contaminants enter the handling and packaging process.