High paracetamol concentration in Jakarta Bay sparks concern over impact on people and environment


Professor Etty Riani, a lecturer on aquatic resources management with agricultural university IPB in Bogor posited that the waters in Jakarta Bay may have been contaminated by human waste, pharmaceutical companies, or improper treatment of wastewater.

She noted that paracetamol is commonly consumed when people feel headaches, fever or pain. This is because it brings quick relief and is easily available in small shops without prescriptions.

“Even in villages, it is easy to get hold of paracetamol, just like buying candy,” she said. 

“Actually, when prescribed by doctors, paracetamol is safe because it can be very quickly absorbed just like food and 90 per cent to 100 per cent is passed out through urine.”

However, she said that when consumed in high doses, it can be deadly.

With a paracetamol concentration level of 600 ng/l, she believed that it would not be deadly for the aquatic ecosystem.

However, if the concentration is sustained at this level, there could be secondary impacts on microorganisms, she said. 

Microorganisms typically act as decomposers and are responsible for the recycling of nutrients.

She urged people against consuming paracetamol freely in a bid to seek instant relief when they are unwell.

Mr Tubagus Soleh Ahmadi, the executive director of environmental non-governmental organisation (NGO) Walhi Jakarta said that in addition to possible ecological impacts, livelihoods could also be at risk.

“This will also burden the coastal communities and fishermen whose living space is very dependent on the sustainability of the Jakarta Bay,” he said. 

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