PETALING JAYA: It is time the government look into microplastics, especially after a Greenpeace study found that salt sold in Asia contained the highest levels of plastic contamination, said a conservation group.
Malaysian Nature Society plastic consultant Donovan Louis said microplastics were very harmful.
“We have mechanisms to monitor and regulate land and air pollution but not water pollution,” he said in an interview.
Microplastics are any type of plastic fragments that are small and barely visible.
In Malaysian waters, Reef Check Malaysia said plastic bottles, cigarette buds and plastic grocery bags were the three most common pollutants.
“Malaysia’s plastic pollution is very severe,” Louis said.
He was responding to the results of a study which showed that over 90% of table salt used in kitchens globally were found to contain microplastics.
The study published in Environmental Science & Technology journal analysed 39 salt brands from 21 countries, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Researchers found that the microplastic content was especially high in the salt consumed in Asia, with the Indonesian sample found to have the highest quantities.
It also found that only three brands – Taiwan (refined sea salt), China mainland (refined rock salt) and France (unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation) – did not contain any microplastic particle.
The study estimated that an average adult consuming 10g of salt daily would be consuming about 2,000 microplastics each year.
“Recent studies have found plastics in seafood, wildlife, tap water and now in salt.
“It is clear that there is no escape from this plastics crisis, especially as it continues to leak into our waterways and oceans,” said Greenpeace East Asia campaigner Mikyoung Kim in a statement.
Louis said single-use plastics such as plastic wrappers, cutlery and straws should be banned.
The government, he added, must not waste time in implementing a mechanism to look at plastic and microplastics pollution.
“Malaysia has been talking about waste separation system for 15 to 20 years but when are we going to implement an effective one?” he asked.