Why Your Colored Salt Might Be Harmful: The Heavy Metal Connection

Why Your Colored Salt Might Be Harmful: The Heavy Metal Connection

Salt has been a culinary staple for thousands of years, and in recent times, it has transcended its humble origins to become a gourmet item. In fact, the gourmet salt market now boasts sales exceeding $250 million per year, with some exotic varieties retailing for over $20 per ounce. However, if we look a little closer, there may be a valid concern for keeping these gourmet colored salts off your plate.

What’s in Gourmet Colored Salts?

This study tested the elemental composition of gourmet colored salts for the presence of heavy metals, and the results may surprise you. Not only was iron found to be in the high ranges of 500 μg/g, but lead levels in the majority of the salts tested ranged around 0.5 μg/g. Four of the black and gray salts even contained around 1 μg/g of lead. This study concluded that the highest concentration of elements, including heavy metals, were found in the darker or deeply colored salts. 

Lead in Pink Salt

Another study found a pink salt from Peru contained a very high level of lead which exceeded the FSANZ maximum contaminant level (2.59 mg/kg vs. 2 mg/kg) and had 130 times more lead than the iodized white table salt control. According to the study, lead is not biodegradable and can therefore cause harmful effects on human health when consumed through food. There is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects. These effects may present as acute or chronic symptoms including compromised bone health, gastrointestinal discomfort, respiratory distress, kidney dysfunction, cognitive decline, heart problems, or even cancer. You can reference this list to compare the lead tests of popular salt brands. The author, Tamara Rubin, suggests that salt should be below 100 ppb lead to be considered safe for regular daily consumption.

Why Himalayan Pink Salt is No Better

Most Himalayan pink salt is not even from the Himalayas. It’s actually mined in Pakistan, hundreds of miles away, from the Khewra salt range that used to be an ancient sea millions of years ago. The salt is harvested by blowing up these hills, often with gun powder, and the harvesting process can not only be primitive but also potentially hazardous. Furthermore, the concentrated shade of pink in pink salt is determined by traces of iron oxide (i.e., rust).

The Dangers of Iron

According to Biologist Dr. Ray Peat, iron is a potentially toxic heavy metal and an excess can cause disease and illness. Too much unregulated iron not only causes cell aging but also feeds bacteria, parasites, and even cancer. Iron in excess can also oxidize with polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) to cause lipofuscin, known as age spots, and its accumulation may have an active role in neurodegeneration.

Why White Salt is Best

At Vera Salt, we champion the purity of natural, white salt sourced from an ancient spring. This pristine location, over 2000 feet above sea level, is far from human activity, potential contaminants, and pollution. Through third-party testing, we ensure our salt remains untainted by heavy metals and microplastics, proving that purity isn't just an aesthetic choice, but a commitment to your health.





  1. Fayet-Moore, F., Wibisono, C., Carr, P., Duve, E., Petocz, P., Lancaster, G., McMillan, J., Marshall, S., & Blumfield, M. (2020). An Analysis of the Mineral Composition of Pink Salt Available in Australia. Foods, 9(10), 1490. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7603209/
  2. Hadid, D., Sattar, A. (2019, October 3). Pakistan wants you to know: Most pink Himalayan salt doesn't come from India. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/10/03/763960436/pakistan-wants-you-to-know-most-pink-himalayan-salt-doesnt-come-from-india
  3. Kuhn, T., Chytry, P., Souza, G. M. S., Bauer, D. V., Amaral, L., & Dias, J. F. (2020). Signature of the Himalayan salt. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms, 463, 250-253. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168583X19304999
  4. Moreno-García, A., Kun, A., Calero, O., Medina, M., & Calero, M. (2018). An Overview of the Role of Lipofuscin in Age-Related Neurodegeneration. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2018.00464/full
  5. Peat, R. (n.d.). Iron’s dangers. Ray Peat. https://raypeat.com/articles/articles/iron-dangers.shtml
  6. Rubin, T. (2020, October). How much lead is in salt? Which salt is safest to use for cooking? Is Himalayan salt safe? Lead Safe Mama. https://tamararubin.com/2020/10/how-much-lead-is-in-salt-which-salt-is-safest-to-use-for-cooking-is-himalayan-salt-safe/
  7. Spex CertiPrep. (n.d.). Analysis of gourmet salts for the presence of heavy metals. https://www.spex.com/getmedia/4c2141e5-69f7-48a6-b7a0-86a08b7c263b/4772CL_Spex_Analysis-Gourmet-Salts-for-Presence-of-Heavy-Metals_Br.pdf?ext=.pdf


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