Trace elements, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, mineral composition, and FT-IR characterization of unrefined sea and rock salts: environmental interactions

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Unrefined sea salt originates from seawater, typically by natural evaporation. Being minimally processed, it contains the natural minerals and impurities of seawater. Despite the wide applications of salt for culinary and food preservation purposes, the available composition data is particularly limited. Since seawater often contains various harmful substances at a trace or ultra-trace level, their determination in unrefined salt is significant in terms of quality control and food safety. Twenty-four (24) samples of unrefined sea and rock salts retailed in Greece were studied in terms of their trace metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) content, which constitute the usual pollutants examined in seawater. In addition, samples’ color and mineralogy were recorded and their attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared (ATR FT-IR) spectra were obtained. No statistically significant differences were found between sea and rock salts regarding their trace metal (Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, Zn) content (excluding V) and the 15 PAHs examined. ATR FT-IR succeeded to discriminate among sea, rock, flower, and underground salty water salts. Compared with the typical trace metal concentrations in seawater, quite high Pb values were determined in both sea and rock salts, whereas outliers in the rest of the trace elements examined were scarce. Median values of the sum of PAH (ΣPAHs) concentrations were calculated equal to 2.1 and 2.6 ng g−1 for sea and rock salts, respectively. Environmental interactions of salt production with trace elements and PAHs are also discussed.

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The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.

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Correspondence to Sotirios Karavoltsos.

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Karavoltsos, S., Sakellari, A., Bakeas, E. et al. Trace elements, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, mineral composition, and FT-IR characterization of unrefined sea and rock salts: environmental interactions. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2020).

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  • Unrefined salt
  • Sea salt
  • Rock salt
  • Trace metals
  • PAHs