Microplastics & Health

The amount of tiny plastic particles in our environment is increasing. Yet, we know little about the health effects of nano- and microplastics. With this programme, ZonMw funds research projects investigating these effects. The aim is to reduce the health risks of microplastics.


Plastic waste pollutes the oceans, rivers, soil and air. We all know that this plastic can break down into tiny particles known as microplastics and nanoplastics. However, not everybody knows that these microplastics are also released when synthetic clothing is washed, when tyres wear down, and that they are sometimes added to paints, cosmetics and cleaning products. Microplastics are present in food, drinking water and the air we breathe. The amount of microplastics in our living environment is increasing, but we know very little about the health risks and how we can protect ourselves from them.

Aim of the programme

The Microplastics & Health programme is a cross-over between the top sectors Life Sciences & Health and Water, and is organised in collaboration with NWO. Private co-financing is provided by the Gieskes-Strijbis Fund and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management is also contributing to the programme. This aims to develop more insight into the potential effects of plastic particles on our health and what we can do to mitigate these effects.

Research results

In the spring of 2019 15 short-term projects were launched to conduct fundamental research into this issue en have been completed. Read the results on our webpage about Microplastics. These projects sought to answer questions such as whether the shape and chemical composition of the microplastics has an influence on their toxicity, what mechanisms and which organs of the body are involved, and whether microplastics are carriers of pathogens. The results of these studies shows that the impact of nano- and microplastics on human health is still largely unknown.

Follow-up research is needed

The intention is to follow up this round of short-term projects with new rounds of follow-up research to gain a better understanding of the risks of microplastics for public health. Applying this knowledge may help us reduce the potentially harmful effects by providing the parties involved with suitable solutions. These could include parties in the plastic supply chain (production, use/re-use, recycling), consumers (behaviour), and the authorities (policy and regulations).

Read our knowledge agenda microplastics and health


The 15 projects ran until mid-2020. The projects were invited to apply for additional funding for an Enabling Technology Hotel, which offered the successful applicants access to high-end technologies and expertise.

Most of the 15 breakthrough projects will continue together in the MOMENTUM consortium. This consortium is funded by ZonMw, the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health, TNO, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport together with co-funding from the consortium.

Report 'What are microplastics doing in our bodies?'

ZonMw developped in commissioned by the ministerie of I&W a knowledge agenda for microplastics and health in January 2021. The knowledge agenda is being developed into a new programme.


    Below is a list of the programma committee members. 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


    Onderstaand een opsomming van de commissieleden van het programma. Per subsidieronde wordt een afweging gemaakt wie onderdeel is van de beoordelingscommissie.


    • 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


    In progress
    € 8.900.000
    Duration: 73%
    Duration: 73 %

    Remain informed?

    Frank Pierik

    Programme Manager
    MicroplasticsHealth [at] zonmw.nl