It is widely known that large amounts of plastic waste are finding their way into the environment. These macroplastics can break down into so-called microplastics, or even smaller, nanoplastics.  Little is known about their chemistry, morphology and possible health effects for mankind. Especially for embryos, these health effects should be mapped out, since fetal development is such an important and complicated process.
My project focuses on the in-depth characterization of micro- and nanoplastics in maternal and fetal tissues. The aim is to gain insight into their morphology and chemistry, by combining several characterization techniques, such as IR spectroscopy, AFM, DLS and GCMS. In this project, sponsored by the European Union and part of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, we work together with 10 other universities. These partners focus on high-throughput methods for large scale health studies and on toxicological and epidemiological studies to assess exposure and health effects. In this way, we create a roadmap for early-life risk assessment of micro- and nanoplastics and help to create actionable tools for stakeholders and policy makers.
: Gigault, J. et al. Current opinion: What is a nanoplastic? Environmental Pollution 235, 1030–1034 (2018).