About this programme

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 aims to develop more insight into the potential effects of plastic particles on our health and what we can do to mitigate these effects.

In the spring of 2019, fifteen short-term projects were launched to conduct fundamental research into this issue. These projects seek 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 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).

Please click here for a short summary of the fifteen projectdiscriptions.


The fifteen projects will run until mid-2020. On 3 October 2019, they will present their interim results at the Plastic Health Summit. In June, the fifteen projects were invited to apply for additional funding for an Enabling Technology Hotel, which offers the successful applicants access to high-end technologies and expertise. The awarded projects will be announced in July.

There is currently no open call for grant applicants.

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. We expect to hand over the report in January to the Secretary of State.

Do you want more information?

If you are interested in the grant programme and would you like to receive more information, please sign up for the Life Sciences & Health newsletter.

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.

Relevant publications

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