Initial Posting: 2/11/2017    Last Update: 12/12/2019
Answer: Himalayan salt and other specialty or gourmet salts from ancient mineral deposits, as well as Hawaiian, Mediterranean, and French sea salts, and Australian river salts, have become popular -- due to their flavor and suggested health benefits.
One of the potential health benefits commonly ascribed to these salts is that they have higher concentrations of essential minerals (like calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium, and chromium) than ordinary table salt (purified sodium chloride). In addition, if you have high blood pressure and are trying to limit sodium intake, these more flavorful salts may allow you to use less salt, therefore, consuming less sodium.
At the same time, there has been concern that specialty salts contain heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic, which are toxic compounds — although it has also been claimed that salts mined from ancient mineral deposits may contain lower amounts of heavy metals which have entered the environment due to industrialization.
To determine just how much of these minerals and heavy metals occur in specialty salts, a chemical analysis was performed on a dozen products including Himalayan Pink Fine Salt and Primordial Himalayan Salt, as well as Cyprus Black, Mediterranean Sea Salt, Sel Gris De Guerande, Aleaa Hawaiian Sea Salt, Hawaii Kai Black Salt, Murray River Pink Flake Salt, Sel de Mer, Kala Namak Black Salt, and Fumee de Sel Chardonnay Oak Smoked Salt. The amounts of minerals and heavy metals found in the salts may surprise you.
There is also concern about contamination of salts, particularly Himalayan salts, with fragments of plastic ("microplastics").