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Indians Have Microplastics in Their Salt, Thanks to Polluted Seas

Indians consume over 100 micrograms of microplastic in a year from table salt. The reason? Polluted seas

Updated
Fit
3 min read
Indians Have Microplastics in Their Salt, Thanks to Polluted Seas
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There is no escaping microplastics, in your water, and now in your salt. You could be consuming over 100 micrograms of microplastic in a year from salt consumption alone, a recent research by IIT Bombay has found out. The study has further revealed that since the source of this pollution is sea water, there’s not much that salt manufacturing brands across the world can do about it.

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What Does The Study Say?

The study conducted by a two-member team from IIT’s Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering (CESE) tested top 8 salt brands and found 626 microplastic particles in the samples tested. This accounted for 63.76 micrograms of plastic for one kilogram of salt. The particles extracted from samples of popular salt brands in India comprised of 63% plastic fragments (63%) and 37% plastic fibres.

Experts believe, since the microplastic particles are sometimes even smaller than 5 mm in micron range, they end up passing through the treatment range by salt manufacturers.

“We have observed about 60 micrograms of microplastic in one kg of salt. If you calculate based on WHO guidelines which states that the maximum salt intake for an adult human being should be 5 gms per day and not go above that, then on an annual basis we consume around 100 micrograms of microplastic. But we have to bear in mind that this only one pathway for microplastics to enter your body.”
Amritanshu Shriwastav, Professor IIT-B & co-author of the research 

The Microplastics in Salt Problem is Global

The study titled “Contamination of Indian Sea Salts with Microplastics and a Potential Prevention Strategy”, further found out that this was a global phenomenon. Due to lack of information however, there is no prevention strategy in place.

Many developed countries which have a strict quality control are also observing this. The primary reason is, all our oceanic bodies are getting contaminated. When this contaminated water is used to produce something, it gets transferred.
Amritanshu Shriwastav, Professor IIT-B & co-author of the research 
FIT reached out to a few leading salt manufacturing companies including, Aashirvaad Salt, Tata Salt, Saffola Salt and Catch Salt to find it if the brands were employing any long-term solutions to tackle the problem. However, none of the companies responded to the queries.  
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How Do Microplastics Affect Our Health?

Indians Have Microplastics in Their Salt, Thanks to Polluted Seas

While experts point out that there are no studies that directly link exposure to microplastics and ill health in human beings, research on consumption of plastic however, could give us an idea of the magnitude of the problem.

What we can say is that knowing that the plastic material can lead to cancers, lead to birth defects and impair the endocrine system and immunity, it is very likely that microplastics too can do the same.
Vibha Varshney, Associate editor, Down To Earth     

Quoting a few examples, Vibha Varshney said, “To support this assumption, we can (see) studies on marine organisms where some adverse effects have been recorded. For example, one study shows that microplastics can enter the brain of a fish and change its behaviour. Another study shows that exposure to microplastics triggers the immune reaction in mussels. We can presume that the human body is also experiencing such adverse effect.”

Is There a Solution to This?

Vibha Varshney pointed out that the solution to the problem would be to reduce the use of plastics in our lives, ensure that waste generation in minimum and that none of it is dumped in the sea.

Meanwhile, the study by IIT Bombay’s Amritanshu Shriwastav and Chandan Krishna Seth says that a simple sand filtration of artificially contaminated sea water could prevent or reduce the transfer of microplastics onto sea salt. This method however is yet to be tested on a larger scale.

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