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Research and innovation


European research cluster to understand the health impacts of micro- and nanoplastics

About this cluster

The European research cluster to understand the health impacts of micro- and nanoplastics (also known as CUSP) was launched in 2021 (with €30 million in EU funding) and is composed of 5 projects selected under call SC1-BHC-36-2020 of Horizon 2020:

The cluster is expected to continue its activities until 2025 and will contribute to better sampling, measuring and monitoring, better fate and exposure assessment, better hazard assessment and better risk assessment and evaluation.


Plastics are useful and versatile materials. However, when they are improperly discarded or recycled they can break down and make their way into the natural environment in the form of micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs).

Given that these plastics can remain in the environment for hundreds of years, it is important to elucidate their effects on human health. The EU has adopted legislation to protect the natural environment from MNPs such as the Plastics Strategy and the Single-Use Plastics Directive.

In 2020, the European Commission adopted the comprehensive Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP), to reduce overall waste, promote sustainable growth in Europe and support more circular production practices. Among its objectives, CEAP refers to the mitigation of plastic pollution and tackling the presence of microplastics, both intentionally and unintentionally released, in the environment.

Through Horizon 2020, the Commission took an additional step towards building a knowledge base for decision-making around the protection of human health from potential effects of MNPs in the environment.

Which main EU priorities does this cluster contribute to?