Microplastics and Human Health Consortium (MOMENTUM)

The use of plastic products, including packaging material, textiles, and rubber tires, can result in the release of tiny plastic particles in the environment. These tiny plastic particles, known as micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs), are increasingly found in our environment, including drinking water and food. However, we know little about the exact exposure to these MNPs and their potential human health risks. Recent research, performed with the ZonMW programme Microplastics and Health, shows that MNPs from our environment can end up in the human body and could possibly affect our immune system, for example.


The current project, MOMENTUM, builds on these recent findings and aims to unravel the human health effects of MNPs and propose solutions to minimise their potential health impact. Methods will be developed to analyse MNPs and measure internal human exposure. Also, it will be studied if MNPs can cross internal barriers of the lung, intestine, brain, and placenta. Furthermore, the novel research on unravelling the effects of MNPs on our immune system will be continued, which will include research on pathogens, like bacteria and viruses, which can be associated to MNPs. The acquired knowledge will contribute to a thoroughly integrated approach for predicting and preventing possible human health effects of exposure to MNPs.

Executing parties

MOMENTUM brings together researchers from universities, medical centres, research organisations, and private enterprises. MOMENTUM will increase knowledge on the formation and characterisation of MNPs and will develop 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 will therefore reach far beyond the 3 year duration of the project.

More information

MOMENTUM is initiated by ZonMw to follow up the 15 successful breakthrough projects. It is funded by ZonMw, the top sector Life Sciences & Health, the ministries of IenW and VWS, with co-financing from the consortium.

Read more about the health risks of microplastics on our page about Microplastics. And take a look at the MOMENTUM website.




Results year 1

Workpackage 1: MNP formation and characterisation

We have created reference MNPs, which can be used in the course of the project. These MNPs are composed of different materials and range in size, so the materials and sizes of these MNPs can be compared. Also, an approach has been developed to form MNPs from large(r) plastics under the influence of UV light and increased temperature. It has been demonstrated that microorgansims can degrade different types of plastics. Furthermore, a variety of bacteria were collected from plastics in the environment and will be identified. The characterization of all MNPs is ongoing.

Workpackage 2: Measurement of MNPs in human matrices

Analytical methods for measuring MNPs in human matrices, like blood, are being finalised.

Workpackage 3: MNP translocation over internal barriers

Different cell models have been set up in the lab for lungs and intestines. The preliminary results indicate that MNP translocation in intestinal models is limited. In another intestinal model, no differences in MNP translocation were observed in intestinal tissues from different segments of the intestine.

Workpackage 4: Immunological hazards of MNP exposure

Different lung and intestinal models have been developed and set-up. In one of these lung models, the first results show that different MNPs affect this lung model. In intestinal models, MNPs have also been found to affect function and inflammation. Some preliminary results show that immune cells can take up MNPs.

Workpackage 5: Hazards of MNP-associated pathogens

Based on a literature study, relevant pathogens present on MNPs in the environment that could be taken up via the lungs or the intestines were identified.

Workpackage 6: MNP risk assessment roadmap

A start has been made with the risk assessment roadmap by selecting literature and making a general overview of existing information on MNPs. Moreover, a number of discussions within MOMENTUM have taken place about the experimental challenges, leading to some important decisions to enhance the relevance and reliability of the data.

Workpackage 7: Solutions

A user group committee has been formed, and a leader has been assigned to each solution set.


Project number:
Duration: 87%
Duration: 87 %
Part of programme:
Related funding round:
Project lead and secretary:
prof. dr. ir. J. Legler
Responsible organisation:
Universiteit Utrecht


If you have any questions, you are able to find our contact information below.


Frank Pierik

Programme Manager
MicroplasticsHealth [at] zonmw.nl

Marije van der Kamp

Programme Secretary
MicroplasticsHealth [at] zonmw.nl