Indonesians Consume and Inhale the Most Microplastics Globally, Study Finds

by Ella

Microplastics have infiltrated nearly every aspect of our environment, including our food and air. A new study by scientists at Cornell University has pinpointed Indonesia as the country where people ingest the highest amount of microplastics.

Global Microplastic Consumption

The study, which analyzed data from 109 countries spanning from 1990 to 2018, focused on major coastlines heavily impacted by plastic pollution. Researchers mapped human microplastic uptake, identifying where people are most exposed to these tiny particles through their diet and environment.


The researchers examined microplastic concentrations in various food groups, including fruits, vegetables, proteins, cereals, dairy products, drinks, sugars, salt, and spices. They also considered local consumption habits and food processing technologies to assess the risks accurately.


Indonesia Tops the List

Indonesia emerged as the leading country in terms of dietary microplastic intake. According to the study, Indonesians consume approximately 15 grams of microplastics per month, with the bulk of these particles coming from seafood and other aquatic sources.


In stark contrast, Paraguay reported the lowest microplastic ingestion, with its residents consuming about 0.85 grams per month. Globally, the daily consumption of microplastics has surged 59-fold between 1990 and 2018.


Inhalation of Microplastics

The study also revealed the countries where people inhale the most microplastics. Once again, Asian nations, particularly China and Mongolia, were identified as high-risk areas. Residents of these countries inhale over 2.8 million microplastic particles per month. By comparison, US residents inhale around 300,000 particles monthly.

In Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Hungary, the number of plastic particles inhaled per month is significantly lower, estimated at between 60,000 and 240,000. The study’s authors noted that these regions have lower inhalation rates compared to other parts of the world.

Impact of Industrialization

The study’s co-author, Fengqi You, highlighted the link between industrialization and microplastic exposure. “Industrialization in developing economies, particularly in East and South Asia, has led to increased consumption of plastic materials, waste generation, and human microplastic uptake,” You explained. In contrast, industrialized nations are seeing a decline in microplastic exposure, thanks to better economic resources that facilitate the reduction and removal of plastic debris.

Recommendations for Reducing Microplastic Exposure

Addressing the issue of microplastic uptake requires a comprehensive approach. Co-author Xiang Zhao emphasized the need for sustainable packaging solutions, stringent waste management regulations, and advanced water treatment technologies. The researchers suggested that a 90% reduction in aquatic plastic debris could lead to a significant decrease in microplastic exposure—up to 51% in developed countries and 49% in highly industrialized regions.


The Cornell University study sheds light on the pervasive issue of microplastic pollution and its impact on human health. With Indonesia leading in both consumption and inhalation of microplastics, the findings underscore the urgent need for global strategies to mitigate plastic pollution and protect public health.



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