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Is Pink Himalayan Salt Toxic?

By: Dave Asprey

Is Pink Himalayan Salt Toxic?

Toxic chemicals, whether man-made or from the earth, can wreak havoc on your performance and your long-term health.

So, you shop the highest quality products and do your research to ensure you’re keeping your family safe from toxic overload. And then an article shows up in your Facebook feed that makes you question your choices. Is the healthy food you’re eating actually toxic?

A lot of readers have been asking me about an article that discusses lead toxicity in Himalayan salt. The piece compares the lead contamination in pink Himalayan salt to the contaminated water that has caused disaster in Flint, Michigan.

That’s a strong claim. Let’s take a closer look and see whether or not it checks out.

Flint, Michigan on a global scale? No.

Back in 2014, residents of Flint, Michigan found toxic lead in their tap water, with levels of up to 13,000 times the allotted amount (which is zero for drinking water) in some homes. Two years later, not much has changed.

The above mentioned blog post posed that, if 5 parts per billion (ppb) of lead is considered a health concern in drinking water, and there is no real safe exposure to lead, then the lead content of pink Himalayan salt (about 100 parts per billion in one spectral analysis) is downright poisonous, and that it’s irresponsible to recommend Himalayan salt as an upgrade to normal table salt.

The author extrapolated that by consuming Himalayan salt, you’re actually getting “20 times as large a lead dose than [sic] what is harming the people of Flint, Michigan.”

The short rebuttal:

Most natural mineral supplements and food contain a small amount of heavy metals [1], but if your body is running well you’re well-equipped to handle them, and as long as you get your food and supplements from trusted companies that don’t add contaminants in the form of plastics, heavy metals, etc. during processing you don’t have much to worry about.

Now let’s get into the details. Here are two reasons you should not fear your pink salt:

1) You aren’t eating much of it

Lead is a naturally occurring element, not just in the environment, but in our bodies and in much of the food you eat. [2] It’s in soil, the air you breathe, and at more toxic levels in man-made items like old piping and paint produced before 1978.[3]

On average, you probably consume between 5-10 mcg of lead every day, much of it from seafood and foods grown in high lead soils. [4] Adults absorb 3-10% of the lead they consume, while children absorb much more (40-50%). [5] Small amounts of lead are pretty much unavoidable.

Now, this certainly doesn’t mean heavy metals are safe. But spectral analysis shows that the lead in pink salt is about 0.10 ppm, well within the legal limit of 0.50 ppm. [6,7,8,9] Water with 0.10 ppm lead would be a huge issue because you drink a couple liters of it daily, but you’re not eating liters of salt. You’re probably eating a couple teaspoons at the most. There’s not much lead in there, and if you’re an adult you’re only absorbing 3-10% of it.

It doesn’t make sense to compare lead in salt to lead in water.

Where else does lead lurk?

One group of researchers examined the lead concentrations of various foods across more than 14 European countries. According to their findings, there’s lead in coffee, meat, algae-based supplements, various cereals, sugars, fruits, tubers, and more. [10] Many of the foods highlighted in the study as having higher concentrations of lead are also foods that people consume way more of than salt.

2) The benefits outweigh the risks

Before you toss your pink Himalayan salt, let’s talk about a few of its benefits.

Himalayan salt comes from ancient geological oceans, which may not have the same levels of pollution as salts extracted from much of world’s oceans these days. Himalayan salt naturally contains upwards of 84 trace minerals, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iodine, iron, and zinc, among others. Quality salt is hand-mined without explosives and tested for contamination.

The mineral content in pink salt isn’t a huge game changer health-wise, but it’s an easy way to get some extra nutrients in your diet. The minerals and other compounds in unrefined salt also give it a more complex flavor than you get from table salt. [11]

If you’re really worried about lead you could switch to table salt, but it won’t do a whole lot for you. Manufacturers refine most table salt at high temperatures, leeching it of any bioavailable nutrients. They then bleach the salt, and many manufacturers treat it with anti-caking agents so it doesn’t clump.

The result is a pure sodium chloride concentrate with no other minerals to speak of.

A note about heavy metal chelation

The author of the anti-pink salt article claims that “heavy metals in your body remain for life … there is absolutely nothing we can do to remove lead from the body with our current medical acumen.”

She’s mistaken. Chelation therapy involves ingesting compounds that bind to heavy metals and remove them from your body. [12] Even standard Western medicine has used chelation therapy for decades to treat heavy metal poisoning. If you think you have heavy metal buildup, I suggest you talk to a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor about chelation. It’s dangerous to do without a doctor’s supervision, but with medical guidance, it’s very effective.

And I wouldn’t sweat the pink salt. You’re getting small amounts of lead with almost everything you eat. If your body is running well and you live a healthy lifestyle, odds are you can handle the minimal toxin load that comes with everyday life. Have a great week and keep thriving.

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3560192/

[2] Rolfes S., Pinna K, & Whitney E. Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning; 2012.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_paint

[4] Stipanuk M & Caudill M. Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition. St, Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2013.

[5] http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/contaminants/dhhssrl-rpecscepsh/index-eng.php#a8

[6] https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002473.htm

[7] http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=7&po=5

[8] http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=7&po=8 

[9] http://themeadow.com/pages/minerals-in-himalayan-pink-salt-spectral-analysis

[10] http://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/scientific_output/files/main_documents/1570.pdf

[11] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-459X.2010.00317.x/abstract

 

[12] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3654245/