By Mike Pomranz
Updated November 02, 2015
© Diane Diederich / Getty Images

We’ve seen how plastic can pack our landfills and litter our environment, but more research is showing how these plastics continue to break down to the point that they can infiltrate our food chain as well. Evidence already exists that consuming shellfish can lead to the ingestion of micro-size plastic particles, but a new study shows that these microplastics can even be found in seemingly safe foods like salt.

Researchers in China recently looked at 15 different brands of table salt available in Chinese supermarkets. The team found all sorts of plastic contamination, including polyethylene terephthalate (which is common in water bottles), polyethylene, cellophane and plenty of others. Salt sourced from the ocean was the worst offender, but even salt from briny lakes, briny wells and salt mines had issues.

If you think this simply sounds like a problem in China, think again. “Plastics have become such a ubiquitous contaminant, I doubt it matters whether you look for plastic in sea salt on Chinese or American supermarket shelves,” Sherri Mason of SUNY Fredonia, told Scientific American. “I’d like to see some ‘me-too’ studies.”

The Chinese researchers suggest that for someone following the daily recommended dosages of salt, that person could ingest about 1,000 plastic microparticles annually. Maybe it’s time to go on a low-sodium diet and cut out some of that plastic.