Innovative tools to study the impact and mode of action of micro and nanoplastics on human health

Humans are exposed to incidental micro and nanoplastics (MNPLs) due to their ubiquitous presence in the environment, but there is only very limited information on the potential impact of this exposure on human health. Therefore, the current regulatory framework cannot ensure that incidental MNPLs present in the air, and in food and beverage products are at safe levels for the population.

In this context, the European project PLASTICHEAL, coordinated by the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), aims at providing new methodologies and evidence to regulators by combining the use of breakthrough research and reliable test methods to set the knowledge basis for adequate risk assessment of MNPLs.

This European project is coordinated by the UAB and has the participation of 11 universities and research centres from 7 EU countries: the Wageningen University (The Netherlands), the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (from Finland), Technical University of Denmark (from Denmark), the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (from France); the Foundation for Health Training and Research of the Region of Murcia, the Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute (IGTP, as a third part linked to UAB) and the Plastics Technology Centre (from Spain), the University of Manchester (from the United Kingdom), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and the Leipzig University (from Germany).


The project will first generate human exposure estimates after identification, measurement, and characterization of MNPLs present in the environmental air, water and food sources, as well as in human biological samples of population groups with potential high MNPLs exposure levels.

Then a variety of complementary experimental models and methodologies will be applied to screen for several potential MNPLs-induced effects. In vitro, in vivo and in silico models will be applied to develop a MNPLs predictive toxicology: the combined advanced analytical and computational methods will allow not only to decipher cellular responses or identify critical pathways relevant to key traits or conditions, but also to retrieve a highly informative set of features to predict toxicity.

The data generated will be processed by integrative analysis methods to obtain MNPLs mechanistic insight, and to identify key events with potential to be consolidated as novel biomarkers of MNPLs long-term effects.

2021 - 2025

The project is funded with 6 million euros by the Horizon 2020 Program of the European Union.