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Microplastics and Human Health Consortium

Little is known on the effects of micro- and nanoplastics on human health. At the same time, the levels of microplastics in our living environment are expected to increase in the next decades. Human exposure is evident by the detection of microplastics in drinking water, food, air, and in human stools. To what extent the exposure to these plastic particles of varying shape, size and composition are relevant for public health is unclear.

How it started

In 2018, ZonMw initiated the first call for proposals in the Microplastics and Health programme, supported by the Topsector Life Sciences & Health (Health~Holland). As a result, 15 multidisciplinary breakthrough projects were granted, to jumpstart research in this new field. These 1-year projects started in Spring 2019 and finalized in the Summer of 2020. When funding the projects, it was acknowledged that one year is not enough, and continued research is crucial to answer the unsolved questions on possible health effects and solutions.

Goals

The overarching goal of this project is to build on the momentum gained in the ZonMW breakthrough projects and work towards a long-term public-private-partnership (PPP) that will ultimately form the Dutch National Research Infrastructure on MNPs and Health, using the ZonMW Knowledge Agenda on Microplastics and Health as a basis. Our project, aptly entitled “MOMENTUM,” integrates and accelerates the most promising research developments from fourteen ZonMw breakthrough projects. In co-creation with private sector organisations and in consultation with key stakeholders from academia, government, industry and citizen organisations, the research conducted in MOMENTUM aims to unravel the human health effects of MNPs (“problem analysis”) and to propose solutions to minimize their potential health impact (“solutions analysis”). MOMENTUM expands on the groundbreaking research of the breakthrough projects by further investigation of the potential human health risks following MNP exposure.

In particular, approaches will be developed to measure internal human exposure and further elucidate the kinetics of MNPs crossing internal barriers of the lung, intestine, brain and placenta. We will also continue our novel research on unravelling the immunological hazards of exposure to plastic particles and MNP-associated pathogens. We will go beyond the current ZonMw breakthrough projects by increasing knowledge on the formation and characterisation of MNPs, and by developing a roadmap to comprehensive risk assessment of MNPs. The innovations in MOMENTUM will form the basis for solution sets to minimize potential health risks, and a long-term R&D strategy lasting beyond the three year duration of the project.