Health

11 Himalayan Pink Rock Salt Lamp Health Benefits

Himalayan salt lamp on wooden background
Are Himalayan pink salt lamp health benefits for real?

 

All sorts of claims have been made for himalayan pink salt lamps, a popular type of negative ion generator. Properties of these lamps are supposed to range from purifying the air to preventing cancer.

The recent ionizing devices trend, which seemingly boost health by releasing negatively-charged particles into the air stems from the far East.

As is often the case with new technology, Japan has been leading the way. Health fears from the SARS pandemic and the Fukushima nuclear disaster have led to a boom in the popularity of negative-ion generators, believed to purify the air.

In Japan, you can buy anything from a toothbrush to an air conditioner with a built-in negative ion generator.

With their pinkish-orange color and and natural crystal shape, the lamps certainly look attractive: but will they make you healthier? Let’s get to the nitty gritty.

 

Do Himalayan salt lamps truly have healing benefits?

…or are they merely hyped-up quackery?

Negative ion generator sounds sophisticated, but seasoned bullshit-watchers will know that scientific-sounding titles sometimes conceal kumbaya.

Let’s examine closely what science has to say. So you can decide if you must be off your rockers to buy this gadget while expecting it to boost your health.

What’s more.. Your eyes might get opened regarding the trustworthiness of the many websites that rave about ‘the health benefits of Himalayan pink salt lamps for your home’.

 

Attributed Himalayan salt lamp health benefits

Natural living proponents and other fans of Himalayan  pinksalt lamps (HPS lamps) claim that the negative salt ions released by heating can boost blood flow, improve sleep, increase levels of serotonin in the brain, and calm allergy or asthma symptoms.

These negative ions are said to neutralize electromagnetic radiation from household electronics, and even prevent the build-up of static electricity.

How much of this is really true? Surely, if a table lamp really did all that it would be a scientific marvel.

 

How do Himalayan salt lamps work?

Salt is hygroscopic, so the lamps attract water molecules from the air; this means the lamps trap dirt, pollen, and smoke particles which are carried in water vapor.

Once these airborne contaminants have been locked in the salt, clean water is re-released and thus it has a purifying effect on the air. Theoretically that is.

Scientists know that salt does absorb water from the air but that it quickly reaches an equilibrium state (it doesn’t take up anymore water because it is saturated). This is the same for silica packets. Both can be revitalized by drying, which a burning and warming lamp does. So there is merit to this claim.

What’s more is that the heat from the bulb inside that warms up the lamp releases negative ions. And there are the health-boosting effects of salt itself too.

joe-rogan-himalayan-salt-lamp
Himalayan salt lamps on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast

 Himalayan Pink Salt Lamp Health Benefits:

Studies and Expert Opinions


 

1. Neutralizing electromagnetic radiation

There is a theory that the much-debated sick building syndrome is due to a build-up of positive ions from electronic equipment.

We are embedded in a vast sea of electromagnetic (EM) radiation emitted by our electronics (smart phone, computer, television, tablet, appliances, etc).

Nobody knows for sure what the long term effects of EM exposure will be. What is known is that constant EM radiation exposure can cause chronic fatigue, increases stress levels, and decreases the body’s immune response, to name a few.

Negative ions will certainly cancel out positive ions; however, to counteract electromagnetic radiation entirely, you would need to wrap yourself in lead sheeting, not just light a lamp next to the TV.

To what extent Himalayan salt lamps emit negative ions into the air remains to be seen. It’s not sure if they are powerful enough to neutralize electromagnetic radiation, also called ‘electro-smog’ at all.

Neutralizing may be a gross overstatement. Helping reduce seems more appropriate.

But if you’re looking for a nice lamp anyway, why not keep one next to your computer or TV if it can potentially reduce harmful side effects of our gadget-focused lifestyle?

2. Purifying the air

Natural living afficionados boast that the core benefit of these lamps is “their incredible power to remove pollen, dust, cigarette smoke, and other contaminants from the air”.

And even though devotees admit “it’s just a big chunk of salt with a light bulb inside” they claim that their efficacy stems from hygroscopy, attracting and absorbing water molecules with contaminants inside, from the surrounding environment, trapping them into the salt crystal.

It is absolutely true that the salt lamps are hygroscopic: they do suck water vapor from the air. Salt in the air has long been seen as a health booster, and sea air has been proven to help clear the airways.

In the 19th century, Polish salt miners (working in the same mines which now produce “Himalayan” salt) were known to have fewer pulmonary health problems than the general population.

There is ample scientific evidence of the health benefits of breathing salty air. However, rock salt isn’t particularly effective at spreading salt particles through the air.

There are ‘salt spas’ around Europe, which people visit for help with their respiratory problems, but these are rooms lined with blocks of salt like mosaic tiling. It seems unlikely that a 10-inch lamp would affect the air of the whole room.

 

3. Reduce asthma and allergy symptoms

The fact that special Himalayan pink salt inhalers exist, and that they seem to have tremendous beneficial effects on asthma, bronchitis, and other respitory ailments rules in favor of the exotic salt.

HPS lamps are said to filter microscopic mold, mildew, dust, and pet dander particles from indoor air. People swear that adding one or two lamps to their room helped alleviate allergy symptoms tremendously. Even asthma sufferers claim to benefit from HPS lamps.

Others think that a saline nasal spray will have a more immediate effect if you’re hoping to clear your airways with salt.

 

4. Improve breathing

Studies show that negative ions increase cilial activity while positive ions have a negative effect. Cilia are the microscopic hairs lining the windpipe (trachea).

In other words, more negative ions in the air means your lungs are kept cleaner from foreign particles. So theoretically, a HPS lamp helps you filter the air you breathe in and keep your lungs clean.

 

5. Increase energy levels

One of the boldest claims. Because positive ions sap your body of energy, HPS lamps can make you more energetic. Often the link between being out in nature (where negative ions are abundant) and feeling invigorated is attributed to these lamps too.

Two caveats; is the amount of negative ions emitted sufficient and are the energizing effects of being in nature solely caused by negative ions or are there other factors such as beautiful scenery, fresh air etc. in play?

 

6. Help you sleep better

Another popular claim is that the lamps help you sleep better. The theory is that over-exposure to positive ions in the air lead to a reduction of blood and oxygen supply to the brain resulting in irregular sleep patterns.

Meta studies however contradict this.

No consistent influence of positive or negative air ionization on anxiety, mood, relaxation, sleep, and personal comfort measures was observed. Negative air ionization was associated with lower depression scores particularly at the highest exposure level. Future research is needed to evaluate the biological plausibility of this association. Source: Air ions and mood outcomes: a review and meta-analysis.  

 

7. Here’s how negative ions improve mood

Studies demonstrate that negative ions can definitely benefit people suffering from seasonal depression (SAD), and may help other forms of depression too.

It needs to be pointed out that during the clinical trial ‘high density negative ion exposure’ was applied. Interestingly, the ‘low density’ group also experienced a 17% improvement.

Claims that the lamps boost serotonin production are plausible but unproven; the only way to measure serotonin activity in the brain of a living human is by a painful and dangerous spinal tap, so scientific studies rarely look at that neurotransmitter directly.

 

8. Reduce stress and increase performance

In a study on people completing a 40-minute task on the computer, exposure to negative air ions reduced stress and anxiety and improved performance.

Task performance was slightly but significantly improved by the presence of negative air ions. These results suggest that negative air ions are effective for the reduction of and the prompt recovery from stress caused by computer operation. (Source: Effect of negative air ions on computer operation.)

 

The problem with proving the health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps

The trouble is, it’s very difficult to know how many negative ions are given off by your Himalayan salt lamp, unless you take it into a lab for testing.

There are many variables – trace elements within the salt, the thickness of the walls, use of a candle or light bulb as the source of heat, etc.

They are certainly less potent than the electronic negative ion generators used in scientific studies, but they also look a lot more appealing on your coffee table.

Negative ions aren’t the only benefit attributed to Himalayan salt lamps though.

 

The truth about the origin of ´Himalayan´ pink rock salt

First of all: there are no salt mines in the Himalayas. Pink rock salt is usually mined from Pakistan or Poland. “Himalayan” is just a descriptor, because a “Punjabi Foothills salt lamp” doesn’t sound quite so exotic.

That’s not evidence against the efficiency of the lamps, of course, but watch out for vendors who claim that their lamps are worth twice as much as their rivals because they are made from better-quality salt. It’s all the same salt which Pakistani grandmothers use for cooking.

It also puts the jubilant story of miners working 1500 meters (4921 feet) deep underground, beneath the Himalayan foothills being happy because of this magical pink rock salt in another perspective.

 

Negative ions


 

What exactly are negative ions?

The big claim made for salt lamps is that they release negative ions into the air, which improve health and mood.

Let’s take a quick look at the science behind this.

  • All matter is made of molecules. Each molecule has a positvely-charged nucleus, circled by negatively-charged electrons like moons orbiting a planet.
  • When a molecule has enough negative electrons to exactly balance the positive charge from its nucleus, it is stable.
  • A positive ion is a molecule which as lost an electron, leaving a ‘gap’ in its outer layer of electrons; a negative ion has an extra electron.
  • The positive ion wants to bond with something to fill the gap, and a negative ion wants to bond with something to get rid of its spare electron.
  • Positive ions are known as free radicals. There are clear and documented links between free radicals and health problems such as cancer. ().

The theory is that negative ions will bond with the positive ions in the atmosphere, neutralizing them before they can affect the molecules in your body.

Negative ions have been shown to inhibit bacterial growth and slow the development of cancer cells, although so far this effect has only been demonstrated in a test tube.

  • In nature, negative ions are produced by moving water and released by plants during photosynthesis.
  • Positive ions are produced by certain weather conditions and by home electronic goods – that’s why the air feels ‘charged’ just before a storm, and why you sometimes feel a crackling sensation if you touch a switched-off TV screen.

Fresh country air usually has 2000-40000 neg ions per cubic centimeter, with a slightly lower number of positive ions. (In nature, positive and negative are usually roughly balanced unless there are unusual circumstances such as a thunderstorm). City air has a lower proportion of negative ions.

 

The mind-blowing effects of negative ions

There is a well-documented link between ill health and changes to atmospheric ionization. Around the world, there are seasonal winds which are hot, dry, and laden with positive ions – some examples are the Santa Ana (California), Foehn (central Europe), and Siroccoco (Italy).

  • In the 1950s and 60s, a rash of studies proved an association between these winds rich in positive ions and an increase in morbidity.
  • In some Swiss cantons, the unsettling effect of the Foehn wind was accepted in court as a mitigating circumstances for a crime.
  • Roughly a third of the population is very sensitive to negative-ion depletion in the atmosphere.
  • According to WebMD, negative ions are thought to protect against germs in the air, thus reducing irritation due to inhaling various airborne particles that make you cough, sneeze, and sore throat.
  • Exposure to negative ions is proven to improve mood in those who suffer from seasonal depression (SAD). A 1995 study by Columbia University showed that 30 minutes a day of exposure to a concentrated source of negative ions led to a dramatic reduction in the severity of depressive symptoms, with no side-effects observed.
  • Other studies have indicated negative ions may improve blood flow and prevent damage to lungs.
  • Nasa employs negative ion generators to help astronauts recover after missions in space.

 

So, there’s fairly good evidence that positive ions are bad for the health and negative ions are beneficial.

 

Science-backed health benefits or not,

4 reasons to get a pink salt lamp anyway


 

Even though Himalayan pink salt lamp health benefits aren’t fully supported by modern science, there are indications these lamps may enhance your well-being.

The healing effects of negative ions have been well-studied. Claims for Himalayan salt lamps are unproven, but are based on plausible science. Salt in the air really does help breathing problems, and negative ions really are linked to better moods.

The jury’s out on whether the lamps are powerful enough to actually deliver these benefits, though lots of people swear they feel noticeably better since they started using the lamps

Himalayan-pink-salt-lamp
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 Reasons to buy a Himalayan pink salt lamp


 

1. What if they work?

Why not try one out next time you’re looking for a side light? They’re not yet proven effective, but they have legions of devotees, and are affordable enough that you can try one without major investment. Just that modern, Western science hasn’t proven its merits yet doesn’t have to mean you can’t benefit from these gadgets.

You wouldn’t be the only one who swears it improves their quality of life. Perhaps it may even be the placebo effect. But then again, the placebo effect works, and that’s all that matters right?

We do surround ourselves with electronics from the moment we wake up till the minute we go to sleep. The positively charged ions these devices emit do not aid our health, that’s a fact. If only a 20 bucks lamp can help a little bit in reducing this environmental stress, it will be a welcome addition to the household.

 

2. They look awesome

These eye-pleasing decorative lamps are conversation starters. If anything, these lamps are a symbol for natural living. For going back to archaic values, for a life lived in touch with nature and our core existence.

They suit any decor, cast a flattering pink light, and cost no more than any other table light. They’re certainly more attractive than a negative ion generator, and free from side-effects.

If your Himalayan salt lamp helps your breathing or improves your mood, that’s fantastic; if you experience no benefits, then you’ve still got a stylish lamp for your coffee table.

 

3. They are ideal for late evening use

The less blue colored artificial light you are exposed to the hours before bedtime the better you sleep. Amber colored lamps which simulates sunset light waves and doesn’t interfere with your circadian rhythm help prevent sleeping problems.

Turn off your, with sleep interfering, normal colored lamps and switch on your amber colored HPS lamp to be gradually guided into sound slumber. And this is a proven benefit.

 

4. We thrive on looking at beautiful things

There’s also the science-backed benefit of looking to pretty things. Looking at eye-pleasing things soothes us. The sight of an attractive item can trigger the part of the motor cerebellum that governs hand movement, brain scan studies show. In other words, we instinctively reach out for attractive things; beauty literally moves us.

Although many of the health claims don’t hold up, I’m going to order one for my RV. A LED usb-powered led himalayan salt lamp obviously. But not because I expect it to boost my health. More because I like how it looks and if it does happen to have a beneficial effect, well that’s just a bonus.

 

tl;dr: if you like how they look, get one and if you’re lucky your new Himalayan salt lamp may boost your health too.

 

Get your Himalayan pink salt lamp here.

What do you think of HPS lamps?

Would love to hear your experiences or opinion.

 

Or get a Fair Trade Himalayan pink salt lamp here.

These ethically-sourced, artisan-made lamps by SoWell come in rare mineral colors such as white and grey too.

 

References:

  • The New England Journal of Medicine, nejm.org.
  • Science and Education Publishing, There’s Something in the Air: Empirical Evidence for the Effects of Negative Air Ions (NAI) on Psychophysiological State and Performance, pubs.sciepub.com
  • Thayer, R.E. (1989). Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal. New York: Oxford University Press
  • Indoor air quality, EPA.
  • Diamond, M. (1988) Enriching Heredity: The Impact of the Environment on the Anatomy of the Brain. New York: Free Press.
  • Yepsen, R.B., Jr. (1987) How to Boost Your Brain Power: Achieving Peak Intelligence, Memory and Creativity. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale.
  • Negative ions create positive vibes, WebMD.

Images, Wikimedia Commons, Joe Rogan Experience.

 

53 Comments

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  • hi
    hi you provide very useful information about himalayan pink salt .
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      • I bought mine about a week ago and have had headaches when I am home. I never had headaches before and other than your comments I cannot find anything else about them causing headaches.

        • I’d try and use the lamp for an hour max and then build up exposure gradually. HPS advocates claim these lamps are powerful and, scarce, headaches can be detox signs.

  • I am very interested in learning about the Himalayan Salt lamp, and while I found this article very informative, I was offended by the hippie-hating tone the writer used. Do you really have to show disgust for hippies and people of my generation?

    • Hi Suzanne, thanks for reading the post and commenting. Which words exactly were it that offended you? It wasn’t my intention to show disgust for hippies and I’m pretty sure I didn’t. Simply because I don’t feel that way.

      In fact, I have great admiration for not only for the hippies of your generation but also for the current new “generation of hippies”. With that I mean the countercultural movement that has adopted many of the intentions that were so prevalent during the 60’s.

      I have been called a hippie myself countless times and many posts on this website address related topics such as anti-consumerism, the archaic revival, bohemianism and so on.

    • Actually, I can see how that subtitle implies that a hippie-driven hype automatically means it is ineffective. And, mentioning it in one breath with new age, nonsense and kumbaya doesn’t help either. So I get your point and I changed it. Thanks for your contribution Suzanne, I appreciate it.

        • please revisit the write up on ions, molecules, free-radicals (as in negative ions are NOT free radicals)… you confuse significantly some of the elementary chemistry ideas that you write about…

          what you refer to as molecules, it seems you mean atoms…

          as far as shielding electromagnetic radiation… light is electromagnetic radiation, so I don’t know if you would want to shield it… it seems to me that you should investigate the various frequencies of EM radiation and the energies involved…

          water vapor does NOT carry parties in it: in fact, a single particle of dust or dirt will adsorb a bunch of water on it, so if the salt actually absorbs water, it will leave any dirt on the surface… the dirt particles are much much larger than the spaces between salt atoms… actually anions and cations…

          you have a lot of the technical details incorrect…

          • Hi Joe,
            What you say makes perfect sense…. So I would love your opinion on salt in a room, be it pink or not? Do you think it has health benefits?

            Chrissy

    • Oh for goodness sakes. I’m an old hippy and all I can say is, “Chill out, sister” – seems like people these days are LOOKING for a reason to get their panties in a twist. I thought it was a great article

  • I’ve only had mine for a few days, but I’ve had more restful sleep since I got it. If it’s all in my head, I’m ok with that. I was diagnosed with cancer almost 5 years ago and have struggled to get good sleep ever since. I’m happy to try something that isn’t a pill. And it’s pretty cool to look at.

    • Sorry to hear about your diagnose. I totally agree with the “if it’s all in my head” part because who cares if it’s a placebo or not, as long as it works it works. Yes I think they are pretty appealing too. Wish you all the best.

  • “The lady doth protest too much…” This article suggests to me that the writer or those who have paid to writer has a hidden agenda. And I’ll cite that science has made our world into a shit hole where we are now browbeaten into accepting and trusting conventional gangster snake oil medicine, pesticides, herbicides, fluoride, mercury laced vaccines, etc., and so on, all of which is touted to be good for us but which is poison to us while we are ridiculed and discouraged by science “experts” from using natural solutions. Science and scientists have betrayed us. And why? Because they are funded by those who want to continue to poison us. If the writer of this article is in earnest, then the writer has been thoroughly, successfully indoctrinated into serving on the wrong side of history.

  • Where do you purchase one that can be left on for long periods of time? I want to be sure if my fiance leaves the thing on overnight, we won’t burn the entire house down! My friend told me about the base of your salt lamp really matters. Wood doesn’t do so good, but having a steel base helps to absorb moisture and its safe to use for long periods of time. There’s so many brands out there manufacturing these, so be sure to look out for a steel base!

  • We at Zenith International are mining finest quality pink rock salt in Makraj, Salt Range area in Pakistan from our own leased mine. Marketed in Pakistan as ‘Zenith Salt’ for multiple purposes including human consumption and industrial use. Our registered firm is into research on health benefits of salt including use in Protein crystallisation. It has long been used as an antiseptic, saline solution 0.9% NaCL is used for I.V infusions.
    We are pioneers in Salt Slabs for cooking and frying, salt bricks for salt room therapy and spa use, salt horse licks, uncut rough salt rocks for illumination, fine and granular grinded salt for cooking and BBQ use, salt bars for saloon and bathroom use, salt lamps of more that 20 different designs, salt for Inhalational therapy for chronic bronchitis, Asthma, smoker’s cough and COPD use. We also are looking forward for international clients. Our salt for kitchen use has a unique taste. Kindly feel free in contacting us. We also have hand made marble and rock salt wall clocks.

    • I am interested in learning more! I just bought mine today. If it is good for everything you say it is I can be a seller! I have SAD. I moved to Florida and that helps a lot but still have limited hours of sunlight. They neigh Sayers 🙄

  • I think people should just try them for their selves and make up their own minds. I know a someone that has been a teacher for 30 plus years and she swears by them. She has used these salt lights in her class room for the past 5yrs and like she said it’s just her opinion but her class rooms have been a lot calmer since she’s been using them. SHE has even gone as dark as to have themy off for months just to see if they were truly working. Oh ya she is a elementary teacher.

  • Hi, I am a masters student in physics, and as an undergraduate, I studied chemistry up to organic chemistry and quantitative analysis. I can not say anything about the benefits or drawbacks of salt lamps, but there are a few problems I noticed with the scientific explanations in this article for why they work.
    First of all, salts are compounds which are made from combinations of elements that form ionic bonds. Ionic bonds are chemical bonds where the valence electron(s) which participate in bonding are not shared equally by the two atoms. Ionic compounds form in nature with a nearly perfect balance of charge so that there are just as many positive ions as negative ions in the compound. Because of this if a big block of salt were to release lots of negative ions into the air it would develop a net positive charge which would not allow more negative ions to be released. One way that negative ions could be released is if the block of salt released both negative and positive ions into the air in equal proportions. This, however, would have just as much of a negative effect, from the positive, “free radical” ions, as a positive effect from the negative ions.
    This brings me to my next point. Atoms and molecules are less reactive when their valence electrons are organized in pairs. If they have an odd number of valence electrons, or if they have a few that are not paired together then they are called “free radicals” (Wikipedia). This does not mean that free radicals are only cations (positive ions). They can be cations, anions, or neutral. For example, neutral sodium atoms have one unpaired electron which can participate in chemical reactions with other elements, and Methylene (CH2), has two unpaired electrons on the central carbon atom. Free radicals are also not all bad. Wikipedia also states that free radicals play a key role in biology where they help to regulate the body. Usually when people talk about harmful free radicals they are referring to oxidants which loosely speaking are molecules which take away electrons from cell membranes, proteins, and DNA (cancer-causing mutations) in the human body. This is probably where the idea of free radicals being positive ions comes from because they like to steal electrons.
    I’m sorry if these comments seem rude, but it just bothers me when people use wrong science to convince uneducated people to spend their money on the newest health fad.

    • Hi Justin, not rude at all. Appreciate your input. The article basically points three things out; 1. that seemingly scientific claims widespread on the internet and beyond are largely not based on actual science. 2. That many people seem to benefit from these lamps anyway (placebo?). 3. That they look great.

  • What do you say about actual scientific studies/papers that have found no beneficial role of negative ions? e.g. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3848581/ and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23320516

    Also, your citation of an EPA website is useless. It just links to the EPA’s IAQ site, which isn’t helpful in trying to figure out what you actually were using from the site. I don’t think I’d use WebMD as a source either if you want to appear reputable to the more intelligent people who can spot bullshit. (Not say WebMD doesn’t have valuable info. Kinda like Wikipedia, a lot is useful and valid, but I would never use it as a source.)

    Just because Joe Rogan has one doesn’t mean they work. That picture is superfluous to the topic and ultimately useless unless your readers make lifestyle choices based off of what a celebrity has in their office/studio – in that case this picture fits beautifully.

    All in all, get a lamp if you want, but don’t say you’re going to be healthier and/or happier because you sat in a room with a fucking lamp.

    • You wasted your money if you bought salt lamps to increase serotonin or boost blood flow. There isn’t a shred of credible scientific evidence to substantiate that claim. Do real research before you buy into something that has fantastic claims attached to it. Much less spend real money on something you hope will work. Amazing how much money is to be made from naivety. In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.

  • Great article. I love them and for me they are warm and soothing. I guess you have to believe they are doing what they”re supposed to be doing. Just enjoy them

  • HI, my girlfriend bought one for me and since then I noticed it realise water overnight and I thought that may be dangerous as I have other electronic things next to the lamp
    I would like to know why water comes out it? I have a fan blowing to my bed may be attacks molecules of water then release them as water.

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  • Well, I got to know today that salt lamp has got plenty of health benefits. For sure I’ll have to buy 100% pure salt lamp. Well researched article with enough sources. Keep up the great work

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  • […] Many natural living advocates claim that the negative salt ions that are released by heating the salt can boost blood flow, improve sleep, increase levels of serotonin in the brain, and calm allergy or asthma symptoms. It has also been said that the negative ions are known to neutralize electromagnetic radiation from household electronics, as well as prevent the build up of static electricity. (source) […]