Do microplastics have an effect on our bodies?

Study of the health effects of microplastics

Working with other research institutes and business, KWR is moving ahead with a three-year study of micro- and nanoplastic particles (MNP) and the possible health effects: MOMENTUM. In this research project, KWR will focus on research into analytical methods for the detection of MNP and pathogens associated with MNP. KWR will also contribute to an approach for risk assessment and work with the partners on solutions to reduce the spread of MNP.

The MOMENTUM consortium will cost € 5.4 million and it is being financed by ZonMw, TNO, Health~Holland, a range of research institutes and the business community. Its aim is to determine the potential effects of MNP on human health.

Exposure routes

In the project, KWR will further develop methods to measure and identify MNPs in biological tissues. That will make it possible to investigate whether the body can absorb these plastic particle, and if so where and through which exposure routes (such as the airways and the gastrointestinal tract). In specific toxicological studies, other consortium partners are investigating whether plastic particles cause adverse health effects. The scientific research will take place under the project management of the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (Utrecht University) and Deltares.

Risk assessment

Chief science officer and toxicologist Milou Dingemans is the researcher at KWR responsible for this project: “We are using the results from MOMENTUM to develop the first roadmap for an assessment of the safety implications of MNP for health. It is wonderful that we can use the expertise we have developed in the field of monitoring methods for this purpose. We are also eager to get involved in discussions about the different policy perspectives and the role of different stakeholders in the spread of MNP.”

Circular economy and water quality

MOMENTUM is a follow-up to the Microplastics and Health knowledge agenda. Many parties urgently need knowledge, not only from parties who produce and process plastic and who are working towards a circular economy, but also from organisations responsible for water, air and food quality. The consortium endorses the call from the Microplastics and Health knowledge agenda that more research is needed and, by funding the MOMENTUM consortium, they are contributing in that area. These organisations are also calling on other parties involved to invest in research as well because more follow-up research continues to be urgently needed. By participating in the MOMENTUM study, KWR can contribute to the development of possible solutions to minimise the spread of MNP.