About CUSP

Funded by the European Union, we are a multidisciplinary team of scientists, industry and policymakers collaborating in research on the complex relationship between micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) and human health, from early life to adulthood.

Micro and nanoplastics (MNPs)

Micro and nanoplastics inside our body

Micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) are out in the environment and part of our everyday life. They find their way into our body through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe, yet we currently do not know how they might be affecting human health. These small plastic particles emanate from the degradation of larger plastic items, or are intentionally manufactured and added to commercial products such as cosmetics, synthetic textiles or paints. Pollutants, such as heavy metals, allergens, toxicants, and microorganisms, can latch on to them and may further endanger the environment as well as human and animal health.

From science to policy

The European Union is spearheading efforts in research on MNPs

CUSP research results will contribute to the health-relevant aims of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy and the Bioeconomy Strategy, as well as the REACH restrictions on intentionally added MNPs to products, by providing new evidence for better preventive policies.

Our Strategy

The five multidisciplinary research consortia that brought to life the CUSP cluster will collaborate in understanding exposure routes, in hazard and risk assessment, in the development of new analytical tools, in data-sharing, inter-laboratory comparisons, and in communicating and disseminating research results. At the same time, each research project will investigate different aspects related to MNPs and health, such as the possible harmful impact of MNPs on pregnancy and early life; the relationship between MNPs, allergic diseases and asthma; the impact of MNPs on the human intestinal tract and the immune system; as well as the development of a comprehensive measurement and testing program.

The five CUSP Projects


The AURORA project is developing novel tools for measuring MNPs in human tissues and will then scale up these analytical methods to be able to detect plastic particles in placentas, blood and umbilical fluid – if they are present. This will allow for the assessment of human health impacts on the developing fetus that are linked to MNP exposures.


Imptox is an innovative analytical platform to investigate the impact of MNPs combined with environmental contaminants on food safety and human health with a focus on allergies and asthma. The project will study the effects of environmental or dietary exposure to MNPs on allergy and asthma using different preclinical models and clinical studies in allergic children.


The PLASTICHEAL project aims to develop new methodologies and reliable scientific evidence for regulators to set the knowledge basis for adequate risk assessment of MNPs. It will investigate the impact and consequences of MNPs on human health, drawing a variety of experimental human
models and measuring potential health effects under short and long-term conditions.


PlasticsFatE (Plastics Fate and Effects in the human body) aims to improve our present understanding of the impact of MNPs and associated additives and adsorbed contaminants in the human body. It will develop a panel of well-characterized MNP test and reference materials, establish validated methods to measure MNPs in complex matrices, assess relevant exposure levels/sources and fates, and develop in vitro/in vivo models.


POLYRISK aims at unraveling the risks of MNPs that are ubiquitous in our environment and are likely to be entering the human body via inhalation and ingestion. The project will combine highly advanced sampling, sample pretreatment, and analytical methods to detect MNP particles in complex matrices as well as up-to-date fit-for-purpose hazard assessment technologies, and multiple real-life human exposure scenarios. It will focus on key toxic events linked to several chronic inflammatory diseases.


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