Just like with bottled water, over 90% of the world's table salt contains microplastics—enough that the average human ingests 2,000 pieces each year from salt alone, according to new research. It's been known for years that microplastics are present in salt, per Quartz, but the surprise of the research is just how abundant they are. The research team from South Korea's Incheon National University and Greenpeace East Asia found microplastics in 36 of 39 tested brands of sea, rock, and lake salt harvested in 21 countries across six continents, finding a particular concentration in salt made in Asian countries. They produced the salts with the most microplastics, including nine of the 10 sea salts with the highest amounts of microplastics, per the study published Tuesday in Environmental Science & Technology.
This not only confirms Asia to be a hot bed of plastic pollution, but links human ingestion of microplastics to pollution in a particular region, reports National Geographic. The highest amounts of microplastics were found in salts from Indonesia, which has 34,000 miles of coastline and was named as having the second-worst level of plastic pollution in the world in 2015. "It's clear that there is no escape from this plastics crisis," researcher Mikyoung Kim says, per USA Today, noting it's pollution consumers should be worried about. Microplastics in table salt account for only 6% of an average person's microplastics ingestion per year. The rest comes from mollusks, tap water, and, cringingly, the air you breathe both inside and out, per Quartz. (An economist suggests an unsexy solution.)