Salt and plastic on the table

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Salt and plastic on the table
Caption: DISCOVERY: Microparticles of plastic getting into the food chain. Photo credit: Flickr

RESEARCHERS from the University of Alicante have made a significant discovery that has added to previous concerns about the amount of plastic products found in the sea.

Analysis of samples taken from many Mediterranean coasts of Spain – including those of the Murcia region – have shown that microscopic pieces of plastic have found their way into table salt.

The authors of this latest report analysed a number of samples taken from salt works along the coast at Barcelona, ​​Gerona, Valencia, Murcia and Menorca between September 2016 and June of this year.  Their conclusions are very clear. They all contain plastic in different concentrations, ranging from 60 to 280 microparticles per kilo of salt, mostly polyethylene terephthalate (found in many fibres used in clothing), polypropylene and polyethylene.

How much plastic can a person safely ingest in this way? This study suggests that if the maximum salt intake recommended by the World Health Organisation of five grams per day at most is respected, the Spanish consumer eats each year a theoretical amount of 510 microparticles.

That amount is not high, they explained, since other marine foods have been discovered to have much higher concentrations. A single mussel can contain up to 178 microparticles of plastic.

Scientific societies and environmental groups around the world have long warned about the thousands of tons of plastic that are thrown daily into the sea, with consequences such as those just observed in a Spanish study.  It’s estimated that there is between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic in the world’s seas and oceans, making it the largest ‘landfill’ of this particular type of waste.

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