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Microplastics found in 90 percent of table salt (nationalgeographic.com)
403 points by Shivetya 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 215 comments



This is getting absolutely rediculous ...

Epoxy resins may very well have created the Diabetes epidemic, with genetic data backing it. https://bit.ly/2J3Btq5

And the chemical used to make Teflon was dumped into the Mississippi river valley for years, leading to a spate of birth defects and other more common medical problems. Dupont paid hundreds of millions : https://bit.ly/2fFAw9Q

Carlin had it right .... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W33HRc1A6c



Thank you. I agree, and I seem to recall other comments to this effect, in the past.

The guidelines don't specifically mention URL shorteners, but they do ask posters to supply original sources:

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Please submit the original source. If a post reports on something found on another site, submit the latter.

Personally, and as a suggestion for this site, I would extend that to ask that sources not be hidden behind a URL shortener. I want to see where I'm going; I also don't appreciate my click being tracked.

I go "meta" on HN only reluctantly. But, I've noticed the increasing volume of comments on HN, and it seems worthwhile mentioning that HN has some different expectations than other sites. Expectations that have helped to keep the commentary elevated and on point, up to now.

(I'm just another poster, here. The only basis for my comment is appreciating the quality of discussion here, and hoping it continues. Thanks.)

P.S. Not sure why the downvotes, but ok. As far as I recall, there are many past cases where the use of URL shorteners has been discouraged.

Somewhat akin to the advice to stick [PDF] in the submission title for links to PDF files. People don't like surprises. Or, in my case, mystery links.


Interesting fact: BPA/epoxy resins are the active component of the thermal paper used in many receipts. Handling BPA paper results in a rise in BPA level in urine detectable after 1 week.

https://cen.acs.org/articles/95/i35/Touching-thermal-paper-r...


Thermal paper is toxic, and you should avoid handling it whenever possible. It is only a matter of time before it's banned due to its BPA content (which may, fingers crossed, accelerate the advent of digital receipts). DO NOT use hand sanitizer before or after handling thermal paper; it speeds the absorption of BPA.


> DO NOT use hand sanitizer before or after handling thermal paper; it speeds the absorption of BPA.

Do you have a source on that? I'm certainly not disputing it. I'm just fascinated.



This makes me wonder what off the shelf products are disrupting our biochemical pathways and if we should assume everything has the ability to, from home improvement projects to inhaling particles in the air from smoggy city. Any thoughts? This stuff is terrifying to say the least...


I recently started reading The Politics of Cancer by Samuel Epstein. It was written in the 1970s and I hope/wish it is outdated because what I've read so far is terrifying. Someone reviewed the book on Amazon as a real life thriller... and they were right. I don't even want to finish the book because it's so depressing.


> Epoxy resins may very well have created the Diabetes epidemic, with genetic data backing it.

That’s a ridiculous claim. The reason for the diabetes epidemic has much more to do with the increase in sugar consumption than anything else, even if other factors might have contributed, like vegetable oils or the decrease in salt consumption.

Throughout history people have gone to great lengths to exonerate sugar when the evidence is there in plain sight since early 1900s.

No, it’s not the plastics and the diabetes epidemic isn’t that new ;-)


Do you have any comments refuting the science of the article, or is your fiat declaration sufficient to resolve the issue?


The article makes no claims, scientific of otherwise, with respect to a "diabetes epidemic" and the possible role of plastics.

"A separate study by the University of York in Britain that sought to assess the risks of microplastics to the environment, published Wednesday, concluded not enough is known to determine if microplastics cause harm."

Both comments are expressing opinions that have nothing to do with the content of the article.


> The article makes no claims, scientific of otherwise, with respect to a "diabetes epidemic" and the possible role of plastics

Wrong article. You are talking about the submitted article. He's talking about the article cited in subcosmos' comment.


I'm at the point in my life where I treat 99% of studies with a grain of salt. I've seen studies that we've held up for 45 years to be completely toppled. Even studies that are holding in the last 5 years where our current generation is "perfect" and doesn't make the same scientific blunders of yesteryear. Our stories in science classes of how "bad scientists" that ended up being right were killed is no different today. It's just that instead of the king calling for an execution our own subjects dismiss them.

If you watch things carefully in the scientific world you'll notice that there are actually really just a couple people holding up claims and making millions of others follow suit. Even in the face of challenging data, we wait for the so called thought leaders to either embrace or reject the new information. If they reject it, so do the hordes. Yet how do we know these few are willing to take on the new information, and actually take it seriously, especially when so much money might be on the line for them.

Humans keep saying they learn from their mistakes, but we don't as it always looks different. Instead of a king's desk it's now an iPad and online forum.

It really takes generational shifts for our science to move. I think too that the reason pop-science and alternative medicine is so successful is because regular science is too quick to hold the wrong things up - they are holding up people not results. And that's our failure.


Your statement reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific process.

If you watch things carefully in the scientific world, you'll notice every domain has hundreds or thousands of people actively researching in the field. Some individuals are on the cutting edge, they define what is worth researching next (usually by themselves), but the accepted knowledge is based on mountains of research from all over the world.

There are no authority figures. Science is iterative refinement of our understanding of the world through consensus acceptance of research results. I mean, this sentence:

> Yet how do we know these few are willing to take on the new information, and actually take it seriously, especially when so much money might be on the line for them.

is outright hilarious, and depressing, for someone who's done research. Scientists are smart people that care about advancing the frontier of knowledge - revolutionizing a field of research is the most desirable outcome. There is no money behind defending the status quo, because that isn't even science.

Science is the metaphorical tree of knowledge. A solid trunk made of facts like "2+2=4" and "Apples fall off trees", while the cutting edge is unproven branches near the top that may not survive the year... but everyone in the field knows and expects that.

The scientific process underpins every aspect of our modern era. It's how we went from room-sized computers calculating projectile trajectories to smart phones that support multi-player online virtual reality... in a single generation.

> I think too that the reason pop-science and alternative medicine is so successful is because regular science is too quick to hold the wrong things up - they are holding up people not results

Theory 1: Millions of academics across the world are united in a global conspiracy to do bad science

Theory 2: Public education has failed this generation of Americans, and now the free market is just exploiting ignorance with snake oil


There is actually nothing wrong with the scientific process, it's great and works. Also everything you're saying about the mountain of information built up by thousands of people is correct to. What I'm talking about is that the mountain is usually under extreme control from a few dictators that provide funding, and basically are the "trolls" of the community that either make vast swathes of research "laughable" or not.

None of that aspect to "science the religion" has anything to do with the scientific process.

By the way, Science, which I hope people recall, has no ability to fully describe the truth - only our best possible guess. That's also written in the scientific process.

Also many people say "because science" and note things like computers and gravity to justify anything related to science that can't possibly be wrong.

Here's a simple thought experiment to help you understand how little we actually are with science and the human body:

Dig up every article and research paper you can on coffee.

Tell me now, for sure, is Coffee Good for you or Bad for you?

That's probably a lot harder to answer than:

Is plastic in Salt Good for you or Bad for you?

And then ask yourself if you drink coffee or drink melted plastic and try to reveal your biases and realize every scientist is doing the same.


With only a little bit of hyperbole, that's because the question "is Coffee Good for you or Bad for you?" isn't scientific.

At best, science can try to answer the question "Do people, that are very similar to you, perform better on some metric when they drink coffee or don't drink coffee?"

Especially when it comes to food, there are so many variations on what "good or bad" looks like, and what "you" looks like, that we should expect different studies to come to different conclusions they look at different populations, and measure different things.

Even when we try to measure the same thing, on similar populations, it can be really hard to isolate all the important factors. Even then we expect different results.

The problem you are talking about is not a science issue, at least not directly.

It's a Popular Science issue, or at a stretch a Science Communication issue.

Everybody loves a powerful model - a simple description that explains a lot - but those are rare and far between in science. In attempting to reach for new models, such as modelling the effect of coffee on human lives, there is a tendency to take scientific results and reduce them so that they look like a powerful model. Coffee is Good! Coffee is Bad! This process is not science! At best this may spur researchers to test if the model is correct, but more often it's just fuel for press releases, popular science journalists, and social media battles.


> Theory 1: Millions of academics across the world are united in a global conspiracy to do bad science

You don't need a conspiracy to do bad science. Just as you don't need a conspiracy to do bad code - and we all on HN know how much of bad code is around. All you need is to write code - with the best of intentions - and to neglect to follow best practices or cut corners from time to time, or just lack experience or foresight to predict potential problems. Sometimes you don't even know it's bad code until you come back to it a couple of years later and stare at it in horror - how could anybody do this?

With code, though, there's an evolutionary pressure acting on it - it is actually meant to be run. If the code does not perform, if it is buggy, if it's insecure or unmaintainable - it creates incentive to be replaced, so some of it dies off and hopefully is replaced with better one (or one bad in different way :). With scientific papers, bad paper can linger around for years until either it obviously contradicts reality in a way making its claims unsustainable, or is refuted by other paper. But for many papers just finding out it is wrong requires doing the same work as the original author did, sometimes more - and the incentives to do that are usually much less prominent.

> The scientific process underpins every aspect of our modern era.

True. But the fact that this process allowed us to achieve much does not mean every part of it is perfect - just as the fact that Facebook has billions does not mean every piece of code running Facebook is great. Some of them is surely terrible.


I don't know enough to ask the right question...but do you think there is any type of research being paid for with a specific outcome targeted? Not to break out my tinfoil hat, but the conspiracy theory part of me assumes that pharma/manufacturing companies with the most to lose, would be willing to part with large sums to skew research majorities in their favor.

Like I said I'm mostly ignorant of that domain, and curious what more informed people would say on that topic.


Absolutely science for hire is a real thing and even unconscious bias is dangerous, but the scientific method is based on reproducibility and predictive power. Important results will get tested and picked apart and studied over and over. It might take time to arrive at a really solid conclusion, but the only way we have to fight bias and error is to repeatedly compare our ideas to reality. That’s all science is.

In this case, it seems like a claim that most table salt contains micro plastics should not be a very hard result to refute or reproduce. Usually scientists will avoid making claims that they aren’t really sure of and are easy to disprove.


The scientific method has been compromised and the proof is in the pudding , so to speak. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis


There has always been bogus science, since before there was science. The fact is we know there is a replication crisis. How to we know that? By applying the scientific method to try to replicate results.

The replication crisis is an example of science working the way it is supposed to. It’s scientists using the scientific method to call their colleagues to account. It’s just that it takes time.

There’s nothing wrong with the method itself. Make testable claims. Have other people test them. What the replication crisis tells us is we need to do this more, not that we need to do it less or not at all.


In specific fields that have always been regarded as less scientific (social sciences and pharmaceuticals).


Medical research is paid for by people that want a specific outcome. But, they also care about the truth as they don’t want drugs that kill people for example.

Net result a small bias, but not the kind of conspiracy worth talking about.


tobacco/fossil fuel companies come to mind - it's never explicit, but there is nudging to disprove certain claims.

You can see how well it's working - money delayed but did not change the truth.

Science is very difficult to pay off. Individuals can spend another 10 years studying after high school just to get enough responsibility worth bribing... and even if they accepted the bribe, peer review would still reveal the sham research forever tainting their name.

So, yeah, people don't really accept bribes.

The worst you'll see is in pharma, where they're testing drugs - a researcher might select test subjects that will react well to a drug in order to make it look better (hiding side effects).


"I treat 99% of studies with a grain of salt"

now with microplastics! :P (sorry, i couldn't help myself)


You have to remember the impact that grant writing has on how scientific findings are shared. Unless the author "spices up" the science, there is a good chance they won't get another grant and their lab will close.

Example: "Levels of plasticizers in urine across the US" - maybe you'll get another grant

Just take your original research, add in a few references to crappy studies that show a "possible link" to diabetes

"Plasticizer exposure possible link to diabetes epidemic" - oh, yeah, you'll get grant now

I know this because I helped write grants.


This makes me wonder what off the shelf products are disrupting our biochemical pathways and if we should assume everything has the ability to, from home improvement projects to inhaling particles in the air from smoggy city and vaping chemicals. Any thoughts? This stuff is terrifying to say the least...


There are several books I've read from the 1800s concerning it. I don't know what dictates plain sight, but it was certainly a concept even then.


Off topic, but I don't enjoy listening to Carlin. I feel like he must be an acquired taste because he's so loved. He's called the inspiration of many of my own favorite comedians, but when I listen to him to me he sounds like a really smart and insightful/philosophical person....rambling angrily. His sets don't set me up for a tension-breaking punchline like my brain expects.

End ramble.


That makes sense to me. He is from a different time when there was just less audible chaos being pumped into our lives.

You could easily go a whole day without someone throwing a hyper-edited escalating sonic experience at you. Now, after decades of movie trailers one-upping each other and those editing capabilities being distributed to teenagers, we are maximally sonically marinated and we expect some politeness when people are trying to deliver sound bites.

In Carlin’s time watching an act like his was possibly the most exciting verbal experience you would be exposed to that week, if not that year. We cherished the performers who could dial up to 12 without losing coherence because it was rare and exciting.

Now it sounds overblown and maybe a little aggressive to a modern ear.


For what its worth, you are describing Carlins newer specials. His career spanned over 40 years. And yeah look at the shift in tone just from the names of his HBO specials

1977 On Location: George Carlin at USC

1978 George Carlin: Again!

1982 Carlin at Carnegie

1984 Carlin on Campus

1986 Playin' with Your Head

1988 What Am I Doing in New Jersey?

1990 Doin' It Again

1992 Jammin' in New York

1996 Back in Town

-------------------------

1999 You Are All Diseased

2001 Complaints and Grievances

2005 Life Is Worth Losing

2008 It's Bad for Ya

If you are interested, check out his older stuff like Carlin on Campus. "A Place for My Stuff" [1] for example.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac


Listen to "Class Clown."

It's an earlier recording and he was extremely mellow and funny.

His later stuff was kinda funny at the time but has not aged well at all comedy-wise IMO.


That old Carlin routine - "let species go extinct cause thats what they do / environmentalists aren't interested in saving the environment ..." seems to be presenting these attitudes as words to the wise. I get the feeling most of the audience took it that way. Is that right?


"it wanted plastic for itself" never fails to make me laugh. @5:35

"plastic. assholes"


H2O is deadly in high enough doses.


Yeah but Carlin also said that us thinking we were powerful enough to cause global warming was pure arrogance.


I remember him saying that thinking we were going to save the planet was pure arrogance- we were trying to save ourselves, because “the planet isn’t going anywhere- we are. Pack your shit” He seemed to be pretty supportive of the idea that climate change was man made.

And maybe we ought to rebrand saving the environment as saving our property and arable land and it will resonate more with some skeptics. Because Carlin was right: this rock we call earth will continue orbiting the sun without us, but “we’re f*ed”


That's what the word "environment" means. We aren't trying to saving the Earth for its own sake, we're saving the environment we live in because we need it for our own survival.


No, the word for the parts we use is “habitat.”


[flagged]


Could you please stop posting unsubstantive comments to Hacker News?


There's also making sure that we leave a thriving environment when we leave no?


If we're leaving then leaving a thriving environment would be low on the priority list for anyone. Really the ultimate tragedy of the commons if you think about it... if the problem is so bad that our survival is reduced to zero, then it follows that there is no possible way to make our last act as a species to correct the garden to be some definition of "thriving". The fact is, something will thrive, it just won't be us, no matter what we do. Even nuclear winter will leave survivors that will adapt to the new wasteland.


Leaving is often a euphemism for dying (individually, as in leaving the planet to your successors). I don’t think GP was talking about flying to Alpha Centauri.


Life itself has been pretty resilient when faced with the last couple extinction events.

On a very selfish level I'm pretty fond of human life though.


He said preventing global warming specifically in the name of “saving the planet” is arrogant. The planet doesn’t care if it has humans. His offence, as usual, was with the wording.


He also thumbed his nose at PTSD. Basically mocking any advancements in understanding it and it's treatment, because "back in WWI they called it shell shock"


That is so far from the point that joke was making. I recommend you listen again. Not only does he not "thumb his nose" at PTSD, he says if we used language that better communicates meaning, such as shell shock instead of 4 letters, people would actually care for vets.

He was a smart man. The world could use another Carlin.


I know I sounded glib in GGP, but that bit about global warming is pretty close to the only thing Carlin said that ever really pissed me off. For a comedian that’s as close to perfect as you can expect.

He is sorely missed.


I think you need to listen to those bits again, because he was clearly saying we were going to be screwed by our own actions. ie, yes, we're potentially causing our own demise with global warming. Same with the PTSD one- his point was that adding more euphemisms was not helping those who were/are suffering.


That's not far from "dumb it down". If science has proven a link between all forms of trauma such as accidents or rape, then its worth reflecting that in the name. His skit was a slap in the face to psychology that is actively researching how to help vets and other PTSD sufferers. Hes redirecting the frustrations caused by the disease back at the very community trying to fight it


Words don’t just have textual meaning (where a term can be “inaccurate” or “imprecise”); they also have emotive force.

Carlin’s point was that “shell shock” is more visceral and evocative than “PTSD”, in a way that would be helpful as a rhetorical shield in the hands of its sufferers.

Saying that a rape or accident survivor has “shell shock” communicates by analogy the problem they’re facing, even to laymen who have never experienced such trauma—everyone has seen a war movie where artillery shells are landing all around someone, and most can (if prompted) easily picture what chronic exposure to such a traumatic stressor would do to them. This creates empathy in the minds of laymen who may not understand what was so traumatic about the particular trauma the PTSD suffered encountered.

Whereas saying “they have PTSD” does the opposite—it communicates the symptom without painting a picture of the cause, inviting a layman to minimize the imagined cause.

It’s like saying that someone is a “battered spouse”, vs. “a victim of domestic violence.” The former could have been taken to just mean the latter—non-physical forms of violence and all—but instead, in pursuit of accuracy and precision, an umbrella term that does not evoke a central example is used, and has settled into, more often than not, being mentally interpreted by the listener as implying the least-bad thing that still merits the name.

To put this another way: this is the reason that security vulnerabilities have started getting names like “Heartbleed.” That is an evocative name. CVE-2014-0160? Not so much. More useful to researchers! But less useful as a rhetorical device to communicate the impact of the problem. It’s a PR campaign in support of solving the problem!

Going from “shell shock” to “PTSD” is like going from the named vulnerability to the numerical designation. You’re doing anti-PR, making a buzzword on the tongues of the public into something that’s too much effort to buzz about at all.

Sure, the term might have more diagnostic “clarity.” When in medicine has that ever mattered? Do we name bones or tendons for what they do? No, we just give them ridiculous “legacy” names inherited from some conversation someone had once in 400BCE. Because those names are catchy, in a way that systematic names wouldn’t be.


I completely agree, but I would also point out that being manipulative by using an evocative name isn't always great by default. Personally, I think it would be beneficial in those cases (shell shock, battered spouse), since dehumanizing suffering is awful at best.

But then names like the "patriot act" also come to mind. Or for something a little closer to home, "anemic domain models".

I suppose appreciating emotive language would depend on whether or not you agree with the purpose behind it.


Definitely.

In this case, I imagine that psychiatrists, as a kind of medical doctors, would generally want to do whatever gets their patients the help and consideration they need. Thus, when they consider naming (or re-naming) a diagnosis, they should probably have that purpose in mind.

PR in general is neither good nor evil. But when people are seeking to do good, they should really make sure that their usage of PR (accidental or otherwise) aligns with their goals.


Carlin's routine is meant to draw attention to the ways that authorities and systems fuck around with words and how, even with the best intentions, these changes gradually benefit the institutions instead of the downtrodden.

Most of Carlin's routines involve ironic hyperbole. He had a bit about how everybody on the road driving faster than you is a maniac and everybody driving slower than you is an idiot.

It's an extremely important bit for understanding his work. Carlin believed that everybody should express their opinion loudly from their own point of view, be aware that a lot of the time those opinions will be wrong, but know that when we do not express those opinions the fuckers always win.

When he shouts that the transition from "shellshock" to "PTSD" has been a tool used for government control he's absolutely right. It was. By making a disease name for it and creating PTSD treatment programs the military could look like it was addressing the problem, where the actual problem was the military using human suffering as a tool to reinforce American political power for economic reasons.

If you told George Carlin "yeah, but rape victims have the same experience, don't we need to include them" he'd probably have told you to call that cock-shock. You'd say "that's gross" and he'd say "rape is gross, the name for what happens after it should be horrible, not clinical".

By saying things like this, Carlin highlights hypocrisies and illusions in our lives and thought processes. Carlin wants to make sure you see what you've forgotten by moving to the new words.

I'm reminded of when Vonnegut pointed out how dangerous it was to move from Armistice Day to Veteran's Day.

"It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not."

Vonnegut doesn't mean that later veterans didn't suffer, that their service is worthless or that their pain shouldn't be noted. He's saying that by including new individuals, the message of the day - that it is horrific to murder millions of people for any reason - has been erased for the good of the military system.

People like Vonnegut and Carlin aren't trying to say things that are correct. They're trying to say things that expose truth. It's very different.


Thanks for an incredible comment. I'm inspired to listen to a ton more Carlin, and go back and re-read some Vonnegut.


Thank you for this reply. I do agree that euphemism creep is a thing. My position is just that his skit on this particular topic seemed very anti-intellectual. It's the same kind of bogus logic used when people who say "just get over it" to someone with serious depression: "back in my day, we just kept a stiff upper lip (meanwhile ignoring all those between now and then who blew their brains out because their lip strategy failed) ".

I do agree that in most cases the language can be contorted to conceal or smooth the direct adjective. I.e African American, minority, margininalized, etc


>My position is just that his skit on this particular topic seemed very anti-intellectual. It's the same kind of bogus logic ...

It really is not; just like others here, I would urge you to go back and re-watch that skit, having in mind that others do not perceive it the way you do. There's nothing more to add to the parent post.

i88y6 30 days ago [flagged]

The downvote is not a "disagree button". Grow up


Could you please not post uncivil and/or unsubstantive comments to Hacker News? We ban accounts that do that, because we're trying to keep this site a bit better than default level.

Also, downvoting for disagreement has always been ok on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16131314.


No he didn't. He thumbed his known at euphemisms that hide the truth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSp8IyaKCs0


Not all war PTSD is caused from "shells". So to use his logic, unless your flashbacks and hyper awareness (oops those are newfangled psychological terms, guess they have to be dumbed down right?) are caused by the use of mortar shells, then any other use of that term is disingenuous, right?


His argument was that the term PTSD is euphemistic. Not that terms should be hyperaccurate. Shell shock recalls weapons amd war while PTSD calls to mind vague "trauma". It's a term that is a step away from what it actually is.


This kind of stuff makes me wonder if plastics are to us as lead was to the romans. To useful to avoid even though we know it has risks, but perhaps we don’t appreciate the risks fully... and it’s very difficult to precisely measure exposure or to know how much is safe. The world is complicated. :/


People laugh at how "stupid" the Romans were, just as we'll probably have a chuckle at our own expense about the sorts of plastics we used.


One of the things is we need not make the same mistakes the Romans made. Many of us know the problems that face us and how to solve them, we just lack the will and organization to take them on.


There is a cool conspiratorial take on it.

This plastic epidemic is not an accident- it's population control.

Plastic is fundamentally tied to endocrine disrupting chemicals, endocrine disrupting chemicals interfere with testosterone, and reduce fertility. Furthermore, that reduction in fertility is passed down epigenetically, compounding with each generation.

I don't understand why people waste their time imagining chemtrails when the plastic endocrine disruptor theory is so close at hand, and the consequence of it is easily proven. The only part that is a conspiracy is the part you can't prove anyway.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28842957


Don't attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity/incompetence/ignorance.


The corollary being that sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.


And the other corollary is that the malicious use the phrase to fool the stupid.


That's fantastic. Do you happen to have an attribution?


It seems to be "Grey's Law", but with hazy attribution. It is a conjunction of Clarke's third law and Hanlon's razor.


I can't find an actual citation (apart from Wikipedia, which cites a book), but it's known as Grey's Law.


It should be called the estebank corollary from now on.


I can't claim it, as it is just a conjunction of Clarke's third law and Hanlon's razor :)


Or more appropriately: Never attribute to some grand conspiracy theory what can be attributed to people just trying to make an extra buck by cutting corners.


I find it more likely that plastic is just a dope material for cheap, durable manufacturing, but I do appreciate having another conspiracy to put in my pocket.


There are definitely health risks. Look at all the bottles that have the "BPA-free" disclaimer on them.


The fact that they’re advertising to consumers that they’re BPA free is itself not enough to conclude that there is definite harm. It may just be that consumers prefer to buy BPA free versions, science be damned. My understanding is that vaccines often don’t contain thiomersal anymore because of unsubstantiated consumer fears, not any demonstrated health risk.


Who would benefit from it? Foreign entities trying to wage a silent chemical war? How would take make sure that their own country is getting hit by microplastics in the international oceans ?


Conspiracy theory sites.


Occam's razor suggests you're completely wrong.


Yeah, except the "theory" that the fall of the Roman Empire was caused by lead exposure has been thoroughly debunked multiple times: not only were the Romans well-aware of lead poisoning, they also understood that lead piping is (generally) safe, Flint aside.


My understanding is that lead exposure was more due to cooking with lead cookware. But yes they knew lead was dangerous, and we know that plastics are dangerous. The question is HOW dangerous. We know now that lead exposure was worse than they realized. Will future people look back on us the same way?


> not only were the Romans well-aware of lead poisoning, they also understood that lead piping is (generally) safe

Would you mind citing that, please? Contemporary works on Roman culinary practices (e.g. Cool’s Eating and Drinking in Roman Britain) continue to underline that Romans were exposed to troublingly high levels of lead through consumption of defrutum boiled in lead pots.


We used lead gasoline knowing it was toxic. Their are real trade offs with this stuff, and lead exposure was a significant issue in Rome even if it was not their only issue.


The fun thing is that even in the US it was only in the last few decades that the effects of lead poisoning was fully understood.


a very apt comparison, i think.

we understand the risks of gross poisoning, as the ancients may have eventually, but our understanding of the peripheral risks of chronic exposure are more or less childish. but what we do know is that they're bad when there is chronic exposure.

but we're too addicted to stop.


And of course, the plastics come from oil, which is affected by things like the petrodollar.


The title of the original article published in Environmental Science and Technology, along with a bit of the abstract:

Global Pattern of Microplastics (MPs) in Commercial Food-Grade Salts: Sea Salt as an Indicator of Seawater MP Pollution

A total of 39 different salt brands produced at geospatially different sites, including 28 sea salt brands from 16 countries/regions on six continents, were investigated. A wide range of MP content (in number of MPs per kg of salt; n/kg) was found: 0–1674 n/kg (excluding one outlier of 13 629 n/kg) in sea salts, 0–148 n/kg in rock salt, and 28–462 n/kg in lake salt.

-------------------------

I would tend to think that if you want to avoid these microplastics, eat rock salt, not sea salt. Much lower concentration of microplastics, which I am suprised are even present at all, really. I don't imagine the rock salt producers are allowing a whole bunch of plastic manufacturing equipment to abrade directly into the product. Not really sure what the n/kg unit represents, though (is it nanograms per kilogram?).


It is available on sci-hub if anyone wants to have a closer look: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1021/acs.est.8b04180

From my understanding n is the number of microplastic fragments.


n/kg looks to be "number of microplastic particles per kg".

As you suggest, the rock salt microplastics are not caused by ocean microplastic pollution. So those numbers represent the "background noise", and if you will, microplastics found in sea salt are 20-30 dB above the "noise floor."


Did some more digging, and another study [1] on microplastics in shellfish gives this highly informative comparison:

"""Exposure during meals via dust fallout in a household is estimated at 13,731–68,415 particles per year"""

So to match microplastic intake from dust falling on your food while eating, you'd have to consume at least 10 kg of salt per year in the case where your salt is fairly contaminated and your house is fairly clean (otherwise it would be even higher). FDA says salt intake should be below 1.5 kg (preferrably below 0.8 kg) per year.

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S026974911...


> Not really sure what the n/kg unit represents, though

Sounds like it's simply a count of the individual particles: "number of MPs per kg of salt".


>in number of MPs per kg of salt; n/kg

MPs is microplastics, so in this case n is the number. So 13,629 individual microplastics per kilogram of salt, etc.


Can the samples be contaminated by the container if it's in plastic itself?


It is pervasive in our ecosystem. There is no escaping microplastics if you are part of the human experience.

It is in the air you breathe:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S246858441...

I wonder about our insect friends who have been recently disappearing:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/grrlscientist/2018/09/29/microp...


The compost from the city yard waste collection facilities is full of pea sized pieces of plastic, especially produce code stickers. If there’s plastic I can see and pick out, you just know there’s a bunch you can’t.

What do you suppose it would take to get plastic produce stickers banned in favor of biodegradable versions?


Either an outright ban, or taxes that gradually increase. However, what's also needed is an alternative that's readily available and not ridiculously overpriced. With produce stickers, I'm actually thinking: are stickers on produce actually useful/necessary? If we really care to tag products, could we just laser engrave them quickly?


Food-safe dyes and little airbrush template.


These exist, are in use and have been commercialised.

If you look very closely at the expiry date printed on packaged products you'll often find it's actually laser etched, not printed. It's considerably more reliable and readable, particularity for small fonts.

In terms of used on fruit, see: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jan/16...


Yeah, laser engraving has become a lot cheaper. However, it can't be mass-produced before the fruit (and labor to engrave is likely to be way more expensive).


Laser engraving produce is not labour intensive at all. It can be done easily by machines on a conveyor belt.


Get a couple of the largest cities or states to ban them so it ends up making the most sense to switch across the board.


I’d like to see them banned for no other reason than because it’s annoying to have to peel them off and dispose of them all the time.


I'm pretty sure that produce stickers are safe to consume (and thus biodegradable), at least in the US: https://www.advantagelabel.com/products-services/prime-label... (couldn't find a better source)


Safe to consume doesn't mean biodegradable, likely it passes right through you.

Goobingling around I see a few biodegradable produce stickers marketed as "not like those other nonbiodegrable produce stickers" but that's not conclusive either.


If they are surviving commercial composting (high temperature) they are not biodegradable.


I do not think it outside the realm of possibility that we will some day contain plastic-eating gut bacteria.

Mealworms and waxworms have gained this ability:

https://www.popsci.com/bacteria-enzyme-plastic-waste#page-2


I'm actually pleased that the article points out that we don't even know if eating microplastics even matter.

I totally expected it to default to the assumption that eating the plastic is by default harmful via magic


Almost all plastic release chemicals having estrogenic activity [1] so not be default harmful, but probably harmful.

[1](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222987/)


OTOH, all those chemicals are problematic precisely because they leach out into water. So you might expect marine microplastics to contain little-to-none EA chemicals, as they've been "cleaned" by the ocean for a long time.


I know that plastics leach chemicals into water, but I have never heard of "water cleaned" plastics no longer leaching chemicals.

It's also worth noting that consuming microplastics doesn't result in them being bathed in water, but rather our acidic digestive tract designed specifically for leaching chemicals out of things.


Worse yet, the plastics break down in water and plankton eat them up... and they're at the bottom of the food chain, not to mention phytoplankton produce between 50-85% of oxygen [0] and eat lots of CO2.

Disclosure: Involved in a project to raise awareness about plastic and noise pollution in the water [1].

[0]: https://thinkprogress.org/zooplankton-are-eating-plastic-and...

[1]: https://www.NoiseAquarium.com


I think only the stomach is acidic, and that bicarbonate ions produced by the pancreas and liver neutralise that acidity in the small intestine.

Your general point stands though: the particular water based solution in question serves a particularly important purpose!


yup - and some of these chemicals you certainly don't want leeching ...


Got a citation?

Even better, you could put your plastic where your mouth is and try a diet of washed microplastics every meal to see how it affects you. It’s not immoral if you do it to yourself!


Most plastics contain flame retardants. These compounds are known to cause health issues.

https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/flame_retarda...


> I totally expected it to default to the assumption that eating the plastic is by default harmful via magic

I agree, as an optimist I believe that consuming inorganic compounds is by default healthy!

More seriously, I believe we should be very concerned about chemicals with unknown biological effects entering our food supply.


Say what you will about plastic, but it is definitely composed of organic molecules.


The main ingredient yes, but there is other stuff added to get specific properties.

https://www.plasticsintl.com/blog/what-are-the-ingredients-i...

Just like "metal" isn't 100% Fe atoms (or Cu or whatever the base metal or metals is/are).


I was not aware that the classification of organic/inorganic made any difference in the health value of a substance.


Salt itself is inorganic.


How could it be good? At best it’s probably neutral. But given our ancestors didn’t eat microplastics and our digestive systems evolved from them, I have a hard time imagining we’re able to digest microplastics well.


There are large economic and social costs incurred when people freak out about something common yet harmless.


True, but there are potentially much larger economic and social costs incurred when people remain oblivious of something that is harmful. Playing it safe is likely worth the cost, even if we pay for a lot of false positives along the way.


The entire point is that it doesn't matter if we eat micro plastics if we don't digest them in a way that matters. In the same way that I don't get iron poisoning by eating an iron bolt because my system can't process it.


The problem arises when your system treats it as something else. For example, how your system treats carbon monoxide like oxygen. Remember, we used to think things like lead-based sugars were fine to eat.

And, fwiw, your body would process a small amount of iron, since it's a mineral required for good health.


Why would you expect to not digest something you put in your digestive tract? You do, after all, digest part of that bolt.


Not everything that passes through the digestive tract is broken down and absorbed. A major portion of the food you eat is indigestible fiber.


If you were eating iron bolts with every salted meal I think you would find that it is not so harmless after all.


I would not advise eating foods containing iron bolts, though. This is what happens with the microplastics, they're everywhere now.


Micro iron bolts would be iron; an essential mineral.


Iron is also a toxin at doses above about 10mg/kg, so, yeah, if “micro iron bolts” were liberally distributed among common foodstuffs, that could be a real problem.


Too much of a lot of things (i.e. water poisoning, or too much vitamin A) are toxic.


The new study estimated that the average adult eats 2,000 microplastics per year. Heck, I probably eat more non-micro plastic (by mass) by accident in a year.


Particle scale almost certainly matters. Asbestos is, as I understand it, not particularly notable except for the size of the particles it tends to release into the air. Particles of sufficiently small size can be biologically active when the bulk material wouldn't be.


True, but is there anything known about this? The part of the thread (currently above this one) where people sum up the risks of plastics doesn't show anything that I'd say increases with lower particle size.


Ah the usual HN tecno-optimism.

1) The human body (and other lifeforms) evolved to adapt to substances found in the environment. That's why a number of synthetic substances are carcinogenic or otherwise toxic.

2) Microplastics contain a very wide variety of plastics. It's extremely unlikely that they are all healthy or neutral.

3) A number of types of plastic are known carcinogens and have been phased out.

4) Given this, he cautionary principle mandates to treat the as harmful by default, unless proven otherwise. There's a reason why drug and food approval processes exist.


What you see is just the precautionary principle. If MP's have rapidly found their way into the entire global food supply, there's a strong imperative to be concerned and figure out, quickly & in parallel, what can we do about it, how did it happen, and is it harmful.

No different than if a massive comet was hurtling towards earth. Yes, maybe it will be fine. But maybe we should be worried.


I would be very curious to know if there are naturally occurring polymers that create similar particles that we have already been living with.


Right, because the sane and objective assumption is that anything new we expose our bodies that hasn't been seen through the history of evolution is default safe until proven otherwise through decades of studies and counter-studies by entrenched capitalist interests. Yay progress!


Kurzgesagt had a nice video on plastics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS7IzU2VJIQ

it is a scary situation!


How can I buy salt that does not have this?


Easiest way is probably to get the pink salt from the Himalayas. The health claims around it are bogus, but as it's mined from the mountains (and usually sold in a highly unrefined format) it's fairly unlikely ocean microplastics have wound up in it. It's also readily identifiable in a way white chunks of salt aren't.

> In another indicator of the geographic density of plastic pollution, microplastics levels were highest in sea salt, followed by lake salt and then rock salt.


It's not mined from the mountains, but from the plains of Khewra, Jhelum District, Punjab.

The nearest outcropping of actual Himalayas is about a 3hr drive north near Islamabad.

This particular varietar of bullshit (Himalayan salt being authentic) is more persistent than most.


Isn't there a slight worry that since it's not refined it might contain other harmful stuff? I admit I only read this once in passing and didn't investigate further.

Also, does the Himalayan salt contain iodine? Because otherwise you may soon get a iodine deficiency. The reason iodine is added in table salt in the first place is because most people would be deficient otherwise.


Even before iodized salt, goiters were location dependent. The modern diet likely contains enough iodine from other sources - seafood, dairy, eggs, processed foods - that non-iodized table salt isn't likely to matter much.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/cut-salt-it-wont...


True - but the modern diet probably also contains enough microplastics from other sources that avoiding them in salt isn't likely to matter much. :(


I've used Himalayan salt for decades, no iodine deficiency. Unless you only eat at home, and no processed foods, you're likely getting plenty of iodine elsewhere.


> Easiest way is probably to get the pink salt from the Himalayas.

It's from Pakistan, but I think your point stands.


Wikipedia says the Himalayas extend into Pakistan, and it's marketed as "Himalayan salt" regardless.


Kind of a pedantic comment from you. The part of Pakistan they get that salt from is in the region of the Himalayas. Himalayas spans multiple countries and is a big region. So that person is not wrong, it is from the Himalayas.


> The three brands that did not contain microplastics are from Taiwan (refined sea salt), China (refined rock salt), and France (unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation)

There might be more info in the research paper linked in the article.


> unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation

Hmmm... that seems counterintuitive. I'd think that sea salt that's refined would contain less microplastic, not the other way around. Maybe they get their seawater from a part of the ocean that doesn't have microplastic?

Also, I'd think that Himalayan salt would contain no microplastic, but then again, it wouldn't surprise me if Himalayan salt wasn't actually from the Himalayas.


Maybe the testers happened upon some very old stock that has gone through the evaporation pits before the plastic revolution. That industry goes way back.


The process of crystallization excludes impurities. But that means they're not embedded in crystals, not that the heap of salt is free of impurities.

I too discount food labeling claims.


That's great. Information on which brands are not contaminated is behind the ACS paywall. Good job, academia.


"One of the oldest and most ubiquitous food seasonings might be killing you. Find out after this commercial break..."


This is precisely why I gave up on the academic publishing model.


Unfortunately there isn't.


At least here in the UK you can get UK rock salt, which I'd expect to be free of microplastics - it's mined from under the ground where it's been sitting for aeons, so unless the processing introduces microplastics (seems unlikely) I'd expect it to be pure.


TFA indicates rock salt also contain microplastics.

If you're really paranoid, I'd suggest buying salt with sizeable crystals, and then rinse those in a saturated salt water bath. It seems to me these microplastics are not included in the salt grains, but rather dispersed among them. So they would float up.

You could also check for microplastics in the salt you usually buy. Just dissolve 100g in 10L of water, and filter that through a dark finely woven cloth.


In the case of sea salt, doesn’t the salt crystal form around a seed particle? The plastic particles are seeding the crystal, so do end up “inside” the grains.


I'd rather melt the salt to take care of any infiltrating plastics.


I think the plastics would burn well before you got to the melting point of salt.


That's very energy intensive. I hope your source of heat is carbon neutral.


Microplastics are already in the water supply. And they are microns large, so filtering it in cloth is useless.


that's why anyone should install a osmosis filter at home


The Real Salt company (Utah, USA) asserts their salt is not contaminated:

https://realsalt.com/has-real-salt-sea-salt-been-contaminate...

Real Salt is in local stores and at Amazon. Full disclosure: I do have an indirect affiliation with Real Salt.


how do microplastics get into rock salt? since they're from ancient evaporated seas/lakes, shouldn't they be plastic free?


A number of salt mining techniques involves piping in water to dissolve the salt, then evaporating the water out of the salt.


This is how it used to be done in parts of Cheshire, which had the interesting effect of leaving large voids under parts of some towns and consequent subsidence. The solution was to effectively underpin whole areas by pumping in massive quantities of grout (a £28m job in y2k) whilst simultaneously pumping out the brine.


The Lake Peigneur accident is an example of this happening very, very quickly. It's quite a thing to see: https://youtu.be/3cXnxGIDhOA

From Wikipedia:

> On Thursday, November 20, 1980, an oil rig contracted by Texaco accidentally drilled into the Diamond Crystal Salt Company salt mine under the lake. [....] The resultant whirlpool sucked in the drilling platform, eleven barges, many trees and 65 acres (26 ha) of the surrounding terrain.

> The backwards flow of the normally outflowing Delcambre Canal temporarily created the biggest waterfall in Louisiana.


Whoa, that's terrifying! It has me wondering though -- isn't it kind of a bad idea to set up an underground mine directly underneath a large lake?!


Love this video. I have a background in Earth Science so this kind of stuff is right up my street.


It seems increasingly likely with every one of these reports that our usage of plastics has lead to the large drop in sperm counts the last few decades: https://www.gq.com/story/sperm-count-zero

Handmaid's tale, anyone?


I’ve been feeling more and more guilty about my 3D printing hobby lately; possibly this is the last straw, and it’s now time for me to sell off my gear.


Why? Is it because you think your hobby is putting microplastics into the environment, or because you're helping to fund the plastic industry? I'm not criticizing you, but just wondering.


The former. Some studies have suggested that 3D printing is especially bad about emitting fine-particulate plastic.


If you’re concerned about that, just drive less. A recent study in germany asserts that the biggest chunk of microplastik is from car tires, which alone is responsible for about 1kg/person /year. You’ll have to 3D print a lot of stuff to get even close. (Sorry, german only) https://www.mdr.de/wissen/mehr-mikroplastik-durch-reifenabri...


Thanks! As it is I barely drive at all, and clearly I wasn't really basing my concerns on actual data (and not for the first time).


You could always recycle and reuse your creations with some DIY plastic recycling machines. the folks over at preciousplastic.com are doing some really cool things reusing plastic, including creating 3D printing filaments from recycled material.


What filament do you use? PLA is common and is completely biodegradable.


Do the light activated resin based ones have the same (or maybe worse) problems with pollution as the other types?


I don’t know, though I would guess the resin ones are less problematic.


Selling off your gear won't do anything. If you're really worried about it join or start a cause/campaign to reduce microplastics in the world.


How does selling the gear help if the buyer is going to use the gear?


It may mean one less 3D printer is sold if the buyer opts for a used one instead of new.


You need to join an Amish community to truly repent and disavow all plastic use.


Do the Amish not use plastic? Or is this just a snarky comment?


“Microplastic content varies dramatically among different brand of salts and is especially high in those consumed in Asia. Based on an average microplastic content of 506 MP/kg for all salt samples including an Indonesian outlier sample, it’s estimated that an average adult consumes approximately 2,000 MPs per year through salt.”

Need to find a micro plastic free salt ASAP.


Will biodegradable plastics solve plastic waste eventually?

What are the main blockers stopping this from happening sooner rather than later?


You can search for "PLA vs ABS" - biodegradable vs permanent plastics and the main players in 3D printing so there's a lot written for a laymen audience about their pros and cons.

LEGO is trying really hard to introduce biodegradable plastics into their product line and have written about the struggle to produce something that is as permanent as they want it to be (so you can hand your LEGOs down to your grandchildren) while making them from plant sources, which is different, but related.

But basically all the resin / petro plastics win out in strength, durability, UV resistance, etc etc -- so there's a lot of products that can be made from bioplastics but you won't see fiberglass boat hulls being composted anytime soon.


Costs, and the properties of different kind of plastics. There are thousands of different polymers used to make plastics, so just using an umbrella name for them all is not helpful to understand what they are.


Also isn't biodegradability technically a feature in opposition to at least some of the uses like sanitary uses? Since by definition you don't want bacteria to be able to make it through. Granted for most applications "only" one hundred years would be more than sufficient.


So what about all the salt found in foods we like? Are they a byproduct of other ingredients or using this contaminated salt?


That site is horrible. It autoplays some loud video that talks about Sam Neil. Nearly made me jump out of my seat.


I use Himalayan Pink rock salt. It comes from Punjab. I wonder if it's affected too.


What about salt from salt mines? Is it safe?


I'm assuming that's rock salt and it's mentioned in the article as having the least amount of microplastics on average.


"But the free market..."


What are the three brands? Is this list anywhere before the paywall?


Corollary statistic: Microplastics found in 90% of HN posts


It's estrogenic effects are readily apparent


Why add a rock to your food just to enhance taste? Sodium is naturally present in all plants and meat no need for extra intake and besides that huge quantity of sodium that is taken from the salt that is added in every non sweet food messes up your body at cellular level

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Na%2B/K%2B-ATPase


> Why add a rock to your food

I'll let you answer that question:

> just to enhance taste?

Yes, that's exactly why.

> Sodium is naturally present in all plants and meat no need for extra intake

If that were true humans (and large numbers of other animals) probably wouldn't have developed a strong taste for salt.

It's true that it's quite easy in the modern world (especially with processed and restaurant food) to overdo it, and restraint is called for.

> that huge quantity of sodium that is taken from the salt that is added in every non sweet food messes up your body at cellular level

Adding salt doesn't mean adding a huge quantity in every non-sweet food. (Processed foods do tend to that, but that's not a “why add salt” but a “why eat processed foods” issue.)


Sodium is naturally present in all plants and meat no need for extra intake

It doesn't appear there by magic. Many wild animals love their salt licks, and for some licking rocks is their primary source.

But anyway, by your argument virtually all spices are pointless. I can't really get behind that.


Spices are plants


With no added nutritional value that isn't already there in your food


> naturally present in all plants and meat no need for extra intake

This is just plain misinformation.

People who sweat a lot due to physical labour, exercise, or hot weather, require extra salt --- particularly if they eat a "clean" diet free of processed foods as you seem to advocate. Inadequate salt intake results in problems like fatigue/lethargy and muscle cramps.

Animals also lick salt; supplementation with salt not some human-invented vice.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mineral_lick

Salt is so important that it was used as currency once; that's why what you earn is still called a "salary".


> Why add a rock to your food just to enhance taste?

Didn't you just answer your own question?


You should reconsider this stance before you miss out on too much deliciousness.


Well for starters its a not a rock, its a mineral.


"Rock or stone is a natural substance, a solid aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids"

Yeah sure.




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