Consuming microplastics? Investigation of commercial salts as a source of microplastics (MPs) in diet

K Aswin, Subash Raju, Kanth Swaroop Vanka, Geetika Bhagwat, Maddison Carbery, Salom Gnana Thanga Vincent, Sudhakaran Raja, Thava Palanisami (Corresponding)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The omnipresence of microplastics (MPs) in marine and terrestrial environments as a pollutant of concern is well established and widely discussed in the literature. However, studies on MP contamination in commercial food sources like salts from the terrestrial environment are scarce. Thus, this is the first study to investigate various varieties of Australian commercial salts (both terrestrial and marine salts) as a source of MPs in the human diet, and the first to detect MPs in black salt. Using Nile red dye, the MPs were detected and counted under light microscopy, further characterised using attenuated total reflectance Fourier transformed infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) and scanning electron microscopy and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM–EDS). Of all the 90 suspected particles, 78.8% were identified as MPs with a size ranging between 23.2 µm and 3.9 mm. The fibres and fragments constituted 75.78% and 24.22% respectively. Among the tested samples, Himalayan pink salt (coarse) from terrestrial sources was found to have the highest MP load, i.e. 174.04 ± 25.05 (SD) particle/kg, followed by black salt at 157.41 ± 23.13 particle/kg. The average concentration of detected MPs in Australian commercial salts is 85.19 ± 63.04 (SD) per kg. Polyamide (33.8%) and polyurethane (30.98%) were the dominant MP types. Considering the maximum recommended (World Health Organization) salt uptake by adults daily at 5 g, we interpret that an average person living in Australia may be ingesting approximately 155.47 MPs/year from salt uptake. Overall, MP contamination was higher in terrestrial salts (such as black and Himalayan salt) than the marine salt. In conclusion, we highlight those commercial salts used in our daily lives serve as sources of MPs in the diet, with unknown effects on human health.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2022


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