Standardised and scalable methods to quantify and characterise MNP in environmental compartments and matrices in the human body (ATHENA)

Project description

This project is about standardizing and harmonizing exposure data that is used to estimate the risks of microplastic particles for humans. It is very important to use good and reliable data. Only then can the estimated risks be used for regulation and policy. There are currently two problems. Firstly, data is often not of sufficient quality. Secondly, research is done with different microplastic particles that do not fit together sufficiently. Therefore, an evaluation method is needed to screen the quality of data (screening tool) and a calculation method is needed to compare data (data alignment instrument).


The objectives of the project are:  

  1. to develop a quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) screening tool, that can be used for data obtained in the MOMENTUM project, and for data from literature;
  2. to develop data alignment tools, specifically for complementary data coming from outside the MOMENTUM project;
  3. to identify data of sufficient confidence and translate them into a range of toxicologically relevant metrics (TRMs). These TRMs facilitate risk assessments, within or outside the context of MOMENTUM.

With this, the researchers standardize and harmonize both analytical and effect data, to enable consistent risk characterization.


Based on literature research, sets of crucial QA/QC criteria for exposure and for effect thresholds expressed as TRMs will be defined. TRMs are dose descriptors that have toxicological relevance in the context of a mechanism or Adverse Outcome Pathway. Examples are particle surface area, volume, specific surface area or aspect ratio. QA/QC screening is then retroactively applied to the reviewed studies and datasets from the literature and MOMENTUM. Furthermore, based on literature research and mathematical principles, the researchers will develop data alignment tools based on probability density functions (PDFs). PDFs enable rescaling of measured or modeled exposure concentrations to take into account the full nano- and microplastic continuum humans are exposed to.

Collaboration partners

This project is carried out by prof. dr. A.A. Koelmans and colleagues from Wageningen University.

(Expected) results

A QA/QC screening tool is provided and a data will be screened. This can support risk assessments for microplastics by separating useful from less useful, or reliable, data. Results are criteria for evaluation, and scores for these criteria per study or dataset. In addition to literature data, the data from MOMENTUM are also screened. This project provides as many PDFs for TRMs as possible, based on literature data.


Project number:
Duration: 19%
Duration: 19 %
Part of program:
Project lead and secretary:
prof. dr. A.A. Koelmans
Responsible organisation:
Wageningen University & Research