Nearly all chemical compounds that contain either sodium or chlorine are ultimately derived from salt. Salt is widely and abundantly distributed in nature. It makes up nearly 80% of the dissolved material in seawater, and is the greater part of dissolved matter in the Dead Sea, the Great Salt Lake, and in salt wells in various parts of the world. It is also widely distributed in solid form. The mineral halite is pure salt. Rock, or mineral, salt is usually less pure; it is found in large deposits in the United States, notably in New York, Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, Texas, and Louisiana, and also in Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and India.
The manufacture and use of salt is one of the oldest chemical industries. Salt is mined from deposits or is obtained as a brine by introducing water into the deposits to dissolve the salt and then pumping the solution to the surface. Salt is also obtained by evaporation of seawater, usually in shallow basins warmed by sunlight; salt so obtained was formerly called bay salt, and is now often called sea salt or solar salt. Most salt for table use is obtained from seawater. It is usually not pure sodium chloride—it may contain natural impurities that provide dietary minerals, or small amounts of other substances (e.g., magnesium carbonate, hydrated calcium silicate, or tricalcium phosphate) may be added to prevent lumping.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.