On January 10, 2022, the European Commission’s research and innovation magazine, Horizon, published an article highlighting the current unknowns of how micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) affect health. It also introduces the five Horizon 2020 research projects within the European Research Cluster to Understand the Health Impacts of Micro- and Nanoplastics (CUSP Cluster) launched last year to help close these knowledge gaps and inform policymaking.
Following its first report investigating microplastics and human health in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for more research to generate missing data. In response, the EU launched CUSP, which is “the largest effort so far in Europe to uncover the complex relationship between MNPs and human health, from early life to adulthood.” “At the moment we have very limited data on exposures and risks, which makes risk management a challenging task,” explains Professor Tanja Cirkovic Veličković, the coordinator of the Imptox project within the CUSP Cluster. “All five projects are working towards the same direction in terms of providing solid scientific evidence and data to inform the risk managers in Europe and elsewhere about potential risks.”
Each of the five projects has a unique set of research focuses including, for example, the potential effects of MNPs on human fetuses during development or the relationships to allergic diseases and asthma. Through the cluster, the five projects are in regular exchange and collaborate to more efficiently and effectively move the research efforts forward. “By communicating our findings within the cluster and working together, we can accelerate even faster than if we were working in isolation,” comments Professor Roel Vermeulen, coordinator of the AURORA project.
The Commission has published a short explainer video about the CUSP Cluster to accompany the article. More information about the cluster’s latest research is available on the CUSP news page as well as by visiting each of the five individual projects’ websites: AURORA, IMPTOX, PLASTICHEAL, PlasticsFatE, and POLYRISK.
Kathy Tzilivakis (January 10, 2022). “We eat and inhale thousands of bits of plastic every year. Now what?” Horizon