On 3 and 4 June, the new MOMENTUM consortium will officially start with a two-day online kick-off meeting where all 28 partners will come together to get to know each other better and establish the plans for the coming period.
This new consortium was already announced last January during the presentation of the knowledge agenda Microplastics & Health to the State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management, Stientje van Veldhoven. The most important message from the knowledge agenda is that more research is needed, and MOMENTUM is taking an important first step in this direction. MOMENTUM is a collaboration between many parties, including universities, university medical centres, research organisations, companies and other relevant stakeholders. It builds further upon the 15 breakthrough projects that started in the spring of 2019 within the ZonMw research programme Microplastics & Health.
The aim of this consortium is to determine the effects of micro- and nanoplastic particles (MNPs) on human health and, ultimately, to prevent such effects. For this purpose, methods will first be developed to analyse and measure MNPs in the human body and subsequently investigate where these particles could possibly be absorbed by the human body. This can occur via the respiratory passages and the gastrointestinal tract, and researchers would like to know whether plastic particles can also end up in the brain or in the foetus. Finally, the possible effects of MNPs on our immune system will be investigated.
‘We hardly know whether MNPs can be absorbed by the body’, says Juliette Legler, Professor of Toxicology at Utrecht University and co-project leader of MOMENTUM. ‘We already have the first indications for this, but we will now analyse that in far more samples taken from human blood and various tissues. That will enable us to better describe the exposure of humans to MNPs and to determine how serious that exposure is. In addition, we will itemise the effects of MNPs. If we know what is actually absorbed by the body and what the effects of this are, then we can better describe the risks and, together with industry, search for solutions to prevent exposure.’ Toxicologist and co-project leader of MOMENTUM Dick Vethaak (Deltares), agrees with this: ‘It is a very complex study and a long-term project, but we are already well underway in the Netherlands and we expect to take a huge step forwards in the coming years. In doing this, we will also examine new risks of plastic particles. For example, the first ZonMw projects revealed that certain bacteria and viruses thrive well on plastic and can therefore be transported by MNPs into the human body. We now want to further investigate what the effect of this is on our health.’
With the kick-off meeting, MOMENTUM will now officially start. During this two-day online meeting, the focus is on establishing a joint basis. The parties involved will come together and get to know each other better, discuss the current state of the scientific research and take part in more in-depth parallel sessions about, amongst other things, new, alternative methods, health impact assessments (HIA) and the linking of environmental and health risks.
This consortium has a budget of 5.4 million euros and is being funded by ZonMw, TNO, Health~Holland, various knowledge institutions and industry. These parties subscribe to the appeal for more research made in the knowledge agenda Microplastics & Health and make a contribution to this with the funding of the MOMENTUM consortium. Likewise, these organisations also call upon other parties involved to invest in research because more follow-up research is still desperately needed.