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 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.

15 short-term projects

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. 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.

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. That follow-up research is to gain more insight into the risks for the reader, you can read in this article. 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).

For other information, please refer to the webpage about Microplastics and Health.

Microplastics and Human Health Consortium (MOMENTUM)

Micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs, plastic particles < 5 mm) are increasingly found in our environment and our food, however we know very little about how they are formed and their potential human health risks. This lack of knowledge forms an important barrier to developing and implementing solutions to minimize the potential adverse health impacts of MNPs.

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.

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 and to propose solutions to minimize their potential health impact. MOMENTUM expands on the ground-breaking 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. The researchers will also continue our novel research on unravelling the immunological hazards of exposure to plastic particles and MNP-associated pathogens. The researchers 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.



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.

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 in January 2021. The knowledge agenda is being developed into a new programme.

Do you want more information?

If you are interested in the grant programme and would you like to receive more information? Then please contact us via microplasticsHealth@zonmw.nl.

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