Microplastics could have made their way into this really common food additive, and honestly, I'm feeling pretty salty about it.
We've all heard the term "microplastics" ad nauseam and they're pretty much what they sound like; plastic debris that has been weathered down into tiny fragments, usually 5 millimeters long or less.
When we talk about it, we mostly focus on how this trash affects our ocean life.
We regularly find plastic inside the the bellies of birds and whales.
And for our shellfish fans, a study has shown that European consumers can ingest up to eleven thousand plastic particles a year from eating shellfish.
So, the answer is let's just avoid all seafood forever right?
Well, it's not going to be that easy.
In fact, microplastics are closer to your kitchen table than you think.
Ever heard of a little thing called I dunno, SALT.
Sea salt to be exact.
Those 0.3 millimeter salt grains have microscopic plastic particles in them.
A recent study from Nature found microplastics inside the grains of 16 different salt brands taken from 8 different countries, which held plastic fibers and beads as small as 160 microns.
The earth is literally taking our trash with a grain of salt.
(And by the way the study conveniently didn't list the brands, so don't even look for it. I already tried.)
The types of plastics inside these salty crystals are important too.
The polymer particles found were mostly polypropylene and polyethylene which are two types of durable plastics that are used in things like grocery bags, plastic bottle caps, prescription bottles, lunch boxes and more.
And this isn't the first time we've tested for microplastics in our salt.
Even earlier in 2017, researchers tested twenty-one different types of Spanish table salts.
And ALL twenty one of them were found to have polymer particles of polyethylene-terephthalate, which is used to make plastic bottles.
So, the answer is let's just avoid all shellfish AND salt forever, right?
Well, avoiding them might not be the best strategy since microplastics are just everywhere.
We're finding them in our oceans, fertilizer, food chains, and even the air we breathe.
But we shouldn't really be surprised.
This polymer, polyethylene-terephthalate, you know the one that's used for plastic bottles, takes up to 400 years to naturally decompose.
Plastic hasn't even been around that long yet.
It was invented in 1907, but since the 1950's, plastic production has ramped up and now we make over 300 million metric tons globally.
And up to 12.7 million tons of plastic waste enters our oceans every year.
It's barely been over a century and we already have plastic in our salt guys.
But that's the thing, isn't it?
Microplastics haven't been around long enough for us to really understand their long-term harmful effects in human body.
What we DO speculate from past research is that the accumulation of microplastics can cause particle, chemical, and microbial hazards.
Particle toxicity may occur if a critical mass of pieces are localized and cause an immune response from your body (which your body can't do much about anyway).
Chemical toxicity could occur since the particles may excrete deadly pollutants they've picked up from the environment.
Plus, what plastic is made out of isn't too good for you.
But when it comes to the salt, we ultimately haven't found a dosage of microplastics that is harmful to us... yet.
The production of plastic is still on the rise and it's expected to triple by 2050.
So our exposure to it will likely increase, and we'll probably have to change the way we think about our plastic production and consumption.
If we've already done this much damage, how much are we going to see in another 30 years?
I know I don't want a dash of plastic to go with my dash of salt.
So if you want some simple ways to reduce your plastic consumption, you can invest in reusable utensils.
Don't wrap your compostable food in plastic bags, give up on gum, reuse containers, buy reusable water bottles, or any of the hundreds of other ways you could prevent plastic pollution.
It's not too late to change our ways, and if you still have doubts about all this then, go ahead and reach for that salt shaker.
I'm sure you'll be fine.
If you think you're swimming in microplastics now, you've got nothing on Ben Lecomte, the swimmer attempting to cross the Pacific Ocean, RIGHT NOW.
He's out there as we speak, along with a team of researchers that will be the first to collect data by hand from one end of the ocean to the other.
And Seeker has all the latest updates and info.
To learn about more about his journey check out this video here.