Microplastics & Health

Micro- and nanoplastics are all around us, in the water, in the air, but also in our food and even in our blood. We know these plastic particles can harm the environment, but we lack knowledge about their effect on our health. ZonMw funds research to fill this gap in our knowledge.

Aim of the programme

The Microplastics & Health programme was established in order to gain more insight into the possible health effects of tiny plastic particles, and what we can do to limit these effects. Knowledge is essential for the development of innovations and strategies that reduce potential health risks. Besides knowledge development, ZonMw therefore also encourages the use of research results in practice, policy, research and education.

Studies with a small budget and important outcomes

In 2018, 15 one-year breakthrough projects were funded. These projects have provided some initial insight into the effect of micro- and nanoplastics on cells and tissues. As part of the projects, it was also investigated whether particles can penetrate our body and cause chemical toxicity or transport harmful microorganisms. 

These projects reveal that small plastic particles can pass through the intestinal wall, lungs, placenta and even the blood-brain barrier. They also appear to disrupt the functioning of these different body cells. Sometimes, inflammatory responses occurred as well. Read this interesting example about microplastics in the placenta. For more research results, see our Microplastics page.


Since 2021, 14 of the 15 projects have continued their groundbreaking research in the Microplastics and Human Health Consortium ‘MOMENTUM’. The consortium is funded by ZonMw, the Life Sciences & Health top sector, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, with co-funding from the consortium itself. The partners in the consortium are Dutch and international research organisations and parties from industry. 

MOMENTUM received follow-up funding at the end of 2023, and is now in a position to perform further research as MOMENTUM 2.0. In 2023 seven additional projects were awarded funding. Each of them is focusing on one of the following subjects: microplastics in the environment, consumer behaviour, interventions and standardised research methods.

Follow-up research is needed

The plan is to launch a new funding round to finance further research after the current projects are complete. This article explains why follow-up research is needed to improve our understanding of the risks of microplastics to public health.

Read our knowledge agenda microplastics and health


From January 2024 to July 2025 MOMENTUM 2.0 and the seven new breakthrough projects will be collaborating closely to find answers to the most urgent questions in the 'What are microplastics doing in our bodies?' knowledge agenda (2020). The goal is to conduct a joint interim analysis of the risks of micro- and nanoplastics to human health and produce solution roadmaps by 2025.

The roadmaps might provide initial suggestions as to how policy, regulations, consumers and companies can help to resolve the problem (e.g. in terms of plastic production, use and reuse, recycling). This will be an interim risk analysis as a lot of knowledge will still be lacking in 2025, but it the process may well identify a number of possible approaches that could lead to solutions, and provide an insight into knowledge gaps that need to be addressed most urgently in follow-up research. ZonMw therefore plans to publish an updated knowledge agenda in 2025.

The Microplastics & Health programme was set up in 2018 after ZonMw identified a need for knowledge in this area. The current projects and funding rounds are co-financed by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and Health~Holland.


A list of the programme committee members is given below. For each subsidy round, an assessment is made as to who will be part of the assessment committee.


  • Prof. dr. M.P. (Maikel) Peppelenbosch


  • Dr. T. (Tanja) Kögel
  • Prof. dr. ir. C.A. (Caroline) de Tender
  • H. (Heleen) van der Valk-Höhner
  • Dr. S.L. (Stephanie) Wright
  • Prof. dr. L. (Lúcia) Guilhermino
  • Prof. dr. S.J.H.M. (Bas) van den Putte
  • Prof. dr. S. (Sabine) Pahl


In progress
€ 8.900.000
Duration: 77%
Duration: 77 %


Frank Pierik

Programme Manager
MicroplasticsHealth [at] zonmw.nl