Airborne microplastics detected in the lungs of wild birds in Japan

Yurika Tokunaga*, Hiroshi Okochi, Yuto Tani, Yasuhiro Niida, Toshio Tachibana, Kazuo Saigawa, Kinya Katayama, Sachiko Moriguchi, Takuya Kato, Shin ichi Hayama

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Microplastics (MPs) have been found in a wide range of animal species including humans. The detection of MPs in human lungs suggests that humans inhale airborne microplastics (AMPs). Although birds respire more efficiently than mammals and are therefore more susceptible to air pollution, little is known about their inhalation exposure to MPs. In this study, we analyzed samples isolated from the lungs of several species of wild birds in Japan by attenuated total reflection (ATR) imaging method of micro-Fourier transform infrared (μFTIR) spectroscopy to clear whether AMPs can be inhaled and accumulate within the lungs of wild birds. To isolate MPs from lung samples of rock doves (Columba livia), black kites (Milvus migrans), and barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) euthanized for pest control, digestion and density separation were performed. After each sample collected on an alumina filter was measured by ATR imaging method using μFTIR spectroscopy, the physical and chemical characteristics of the detected MPs were evaluated. Six MPs were detected in 3 of 22 lung samples. Polypropylene and polyethylene were found in rock doves and ethylene vinyl acetate was found in a barn swallow. Most MPs were fragments of 28.0–70.5 μm. Our results demonstrated that in addition to dietary sources, some wild birds are exposed to MPs by inhalation, and these MPs reach the lungs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number138032
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Apr


  • Air pollution
  • Avian lung
  • Inhalation
  • Secondary microplastic
  • Terrestrial birds
  • μFTIR spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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