QUASIMEME/NORMAN Interlaboratory Study on the Analysis of Microplastics in Environmental Matrices
18 March 2019
‘Microplastic’ is a catch-all phrase for plastic particles spanning six orders of magnitude in particle size (0.1–5000 µm) and a gigantic variety of chemical compositions: (co)polymers, chemical additives, residual monomers, fillers, catalysts, non-intentionally added substances (NIAS) etc. The diversity of this analyte class has resulted in a range of different analytical methodologies being applied thus far. A Microplastics Analysis Workshop was held in November 2018 in Amsterdam and was dedicated to the topic of microplastics analysis in environmental matrices. Based on the outcome of that workshop we now announce the first phase of an international microplastics interlaboratory study.
Design of the Study
The study will consist of three steps as a minimum, unless it would appear that corrective actions or a repetition of one step would be needed. It is anticipated that after the entire study analytical methodologies will be harmonized and the microplastics could be included in the routine proficiency testing scheme of QUASIMEME (www.quasimeme.org).
E&H awarded Microplastics & Health research funding
21 February 2019
Researchers at the Department of Environment and Health were awarded research funding from the The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) for projects in the call entitled “Microplastics and Health”. The team will be working closely with VUmc, Deltares, UMCU, TNO, IRAS, as well as with RIVM and others in this nascent Dutch research area. The projects will commence in Spring 2019 and run for 12 months.
PLASTIC SOUP CHILDREN’S LECTURE AT NEMO SCIENCE MUSEUM
The children performed simple experiments exploring plastic’s behaviour in the environment and products. At the end of the hour, they used their knowledge of plastic pollution prevention in designing their own cookie packages that were specially devised to never become part of the plastic soup. The next generation of plastic soup scientists already understand the problems – and they appear to have moved on to solving them.
A report of the lecture can be found here along with NEMO’s schedule for other spectacular children’s science lectures, which take place once a month on a Sunday at 11 AM and 1PM. In Dutch.
New Professor Analytical Chemistry for Environment and Health for E&H
Per 1 January 2019 Dr. Marja Lamoree has been appointed as Professor in Analytical Chemistry for Environment and Health. Marja was trained as an analytical chemist at the VU and obtained her PhD in 2000 from Leiden University with a thesis entitled: Capillary Electrophoretic Separation Techniques coupled to Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry.
She worked at OctoPlus B.V., the Netherlands, a contract research organisation in the field of drug development and formulation before she came back to the VU in 2000. She started as a researcher in environmental analytical chemistry at the Institute for Environmental Studies of the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences. In 2017 she moved with her section to the O2 building to work in the Dept. Environment & Health of the Faculty of Science, also partner in AIMMS.
Her main interests are i) analytical method development for trace level analysis of environmental pollutants in various matrices such as sediment, surface water, effluent, sludge, biota, food, feed and materials for human biomonitoring such as plasma and breastmilk, ii) effect-directed analysis (EDA) and iii) identification of unknown toxic compounds using high resolution mass spectrometric techniques. She has published 79 papers and four book chapters. Her H-index is 27.
MICROPLASTICS ANALYSIS WORKSHOP GEARS UP FOR FIRST INTERLABORATORY STUDY
29 November 2018
A dynamic Microplastics Analysis Workshop hosted by the Dept. of E&H attracted over 110 participants from 24countries, filling the VU’s O|2 Auditorium for two fast-paced, informative days (27 & 28 Nov 2018). Participants engaged in open discussions on the quality assurance/quality control (‘QA/QC’) needs of analytical laboratories and data users. High-quality presentations of microplastics analytical approaches in theory and practice were given by an excellent line-up of guest speakers and poster presenters.
Universiteit van Nederland features VU's Plastic Soup Scientist on November 6
16 October 2018
Prepare for a bumpy ride! The Universiteit van Nederland is examining scenarios that might lead us to ‘the end times” such as: the great insect die-off, serious Gulf Stream disruption, the next pandemic virus, and what is disastrous about the plastic soup and what can be done about it. Plastic pollution expert Dr. Heather Leslie will join other Dutch scientists in giving a series of 5 short lectures on the theme “the end of time”. The lectures will be filmed in front of a studio audience on 6 November 2018 at 8 PM in Amsterdam. The lectures will be broadcast on the Universiteit van Nederland youtube channel that was created for top Dutch scientists to give free lectures to the public. With already 4 million views of the lectures posted to date, the ambition to bring the most interesting university lectures and knowledge to internet users is already a reality. As the Universiteit van Nederland producers say: “Wetenschap is te gek en iedereen moet dat weten.” [Science is awesome and everyone should know it.] Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about the lecture.
Plastic Soup session at Springtij Sustainability Conference
1 October 2018
E&H plastic expert Dr. Heather Leslie presented her knowledge of the still largely uncharted risks of micro- and nanoplastic on human health and the environment at the Plastic Soup session of the Springtij Sustainability Conference on Terschelling Island, the Netherlands (27-29 September 2018). After describing the complex chemical and particulate exposure problem that plastic pollution poses, she gave a vision of clean oceans and plastic-free human bodies - beyond the horizon, but perhaps someday in our reach. Read more
New Professor for Environment & Health: Majorie van Duursen
28 September 2018
Per 1 September the Dept. Environment & Health welcomes Prof.Dr. Majorie van Duursen who will take the Chair of Environmental Health and Toxicology. Prof. Van Duursen obtained her PhD in Toxicology in Utrecht in 2004 and has since worked at the Institute for Risk Assessment Studies at Utrecht University, the last years as an associated professor. Her specialisations are: endocrine toxicology, In vitro models, female reproductive health, developmental origin of health and adult disease and human risk assessment of environmental contaminants. Her focus is on improving the health of (future) mothers and children through science and education. She has been involved in and coordinated various projects on the toxicological impact of environmental contaminants. A registered European toxicologist, she is a member of the WHO Collaborating Center for Children’s Environmental Health, the Netherlands and US Societies of Toxicology and the European Society of Endocrinology. The additional very good news is that she has just acquired a large European grant for the project FREIA, focused on the development of test systems for female reproduction, which she brings to the VU.
ANNOUNCING MICROPLASTICS ANALYSIS WORKSHOP 27-28 NOVEMBER 2018
The Dept. of Environment and Health of the Vrije Universiteit has recognized the need for an open interlaboratory study on plastic particles in a variety of sample matrices and has teamed up with interlaboratory study provider QUASIMEME and NIVA to meet this need.
This initiative kicks off with an international workshop in the English language open to all interested participants from around the world, to be held at the VU in Amsterdam 27-28 November 2018. The intention of the workshop is to review analytical issues surrounding microplastics analysis and to gather input for the design of an interlaboratory study from the expert analytical community who are up for the analytical challenge that plastic particles present. An interlaboratory study will be prepared following the workshop. Participants can join the workshop and later register separately for the interlaboratory study (expected in 2019).
E&H SYMPOSIUM ‘GUILTY MIXTURES? EXPOSURE AND EFFECTS OF COMPLEX CONTAMINANT MIXTURES’, 22 NOVEMBER 2018
17 July 2018
In our consumer society, people and organisms are constantly exposed to complex mixtures of contaminants. The contaminant sources include emissions from industry, agriculture, buildings, vehicles, households and a multitude of products that leach contaminants to both indoor and outdoor environments. This symposium engages the audience to contemplate contemporary questions related to strategies for assessing the environmental and human health risks of complex environmental contaminant mixtures.
Read more and Save the Date 22 November 2018.
ECOSYSTEM MODELLING OF MICROPLASTICS IMPACT PUBLICATION
4 July 2018
Marine and coastal ecosystems are among the largest contributors to the Earth's overall productivity, i.e. the generation of biological living organisms, or biomass. These areas are also contaminated by microplastics worldwide. Do microplastics in the marine environment affect marine ecosystem productivity? This is a burning question in the minds of those following the growth of plastic pollution emissions to the seas and oceans of the world. A Deltares-VU Environment & Health collaboration set out to explore this question in the case of the North Sea ecosystem. The publication can be downloaded for free (until 18 August 2018) via this share link.
CAPTAIN CHARLES MOORE VISITS E&H LAB TO TALK PLASTIC
29 June 2018
It was a great pleasure to welcome the world renowned oceanographer and marine debris expert Captain Charles Moore to the VU’s Environment & Health Department for the first time. Credited with discovering the Great North Pacific Garbage Patch and founder of the Algalita marine research and education organisation in California, Captain Moore has been a key contributor to global marine debris science and a respected voice in policy circles ever since. After an extensive E&H laboratory tour and scientific discussions with E&H’s marine debris expert Dr. Heather Leslie, E&H staff and guests Charles Moore and Maria Westerbos (Director, Plastic Soup Foundation) ended the day in the sunshine of a campus café rooftop with some cold drinks and more discussions about plastic, the environment and us. Captain Moore had this to say of his experience visiting E&H.
TALKING MICROPLASTICS ON BNR RADIO
29 June 2018
Microplastics remains a topic of keen public interest. Dr. Heather Leslie of E&H was invited along with Karl Beerenfenger of By the Ocean We Unite for a ‘deep dive into the news’ about microplastics with BNR Radio’s Roelof Hemmen. To listen to the podcast [in Dutch], follow this link (interview starts at 18.28).
E&H SCIENTIST SPEAKS AT ECHA
30 May 2018
E&H’s microplastics expert Dr. Heather Leslie was an invited plenary speaker and break-out session participant at the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA).Stakeholder workshop on intentional uses of microplastic particles, held in Helsinki 30-31 May 2018. Invited participants from industry, stakeholder organisations, research institutions, the European Commission, Member State Competent Authorities and ECHA were in attendance, with an additional 200 participants following the plenary session via web-streaming. As well as touching on the current state of knowledge of the fate, exposure and potential effects of microplastics in the environment and in us, she raised the question whether or not our contemporary plastic applications are congruent with our best science, and with the moral and economic imperatives of environmental and human health protection. REACH legislation is responsible for restricting substances that pose a risk to the environment or health. At the request of the European Commission, ECHA is currently assessing the scientific evidence for taking regulatory action at the EU level on microplastics intentionally-added to products of any kind.
FRACTIONATION FOR HIGH THROUGHPUT EDA
23 April 2018
FractioMate TMWithin the STW-funded project (2012-2017) ‘High throughput Effect-Directed Analysis: a novel platform for rapid and sensitive identification of toxic compounds in the aquatic environment’, the VU and Spark Holland developed a small-volume fractionation device to speed up the typical EDA workflow. The FractioMateTM is a contact-free high frequency droplet ejection spotter device for HT-EDA. It is the bridging unit integrating biological toxicity responses with chemical data, such as mass spectrometry. The unit is placed directly post-column after chromatographic separation thereby allowing high resolution fractionation of an environmental extract, while at the same time via a split chemical data such as mass spectrometric data is acquired.
E&H RESEARCHER SPEAKS AT EUROPEAN COMMISSION’S ‘REINVENTING PLASTICS’ CONFERENCE
E&H’s Dr. Heather Leslie will speak at the European Commission’s REINVENTING PLASTICS – CLOSING THE CIRCLE Conference in Brussels on 26 September 2017. The one-day program will be opened by Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission, who will speak about the plastics strategy for Europe. The conference’s objective is to explore issues and potential solutions to be proposed in the European Plastics Strategy with input from high-level stakeholders from industry, business, science and civil society. Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries will close the conference with a keynote entitled ‘On the way forward for the EU strategy’. Read more.Reinventing Plastics – Closing the Circle, Brussels, 26 September 2017
This is one of several EU events linked to the Sustainable Development Goals.
CLEANSEA DOCUMENTARY FEATURED AT OCEAN PLASTICS LAB TRAVELLING EXHIBITION
18 September 2017
The VU-led interdisciplinary CleanSea Project about marine litter made a documentary film in 2015 that has become part of a travelling exhibition opening 27 September 2017. The exhibition’s organizer, the Ocean Plastics Lab, invites the public to visit the exhibition and find out about CleanSea and other research projects and scientific achievements in marine plastic pollution. The exhibition opens on the Piazza Solferino in Turin at the same time as the G7 Ministers of Science convene there for their annual summit to adopt resolutions and discuss joint initiatives regarding, among other issues, the future of our seas and oceans. The exhibits are free. Next stop on the tour: Paris.
27.09.2017 - 07.10.2017 | Piazza Solferino, 10121 Torino, Italy
06.11.2017 - 19.11.2017 | Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 Paris, France
More info: http://oceanplasticslab.net/ and www.cleansea-project.eu
E&H messages to European Parliament: EU Action to Combat Marine Litter Workshop
E&H’s Dr. Heather Leslie made her third trip to the European Parliament in Brussels, where she has been disseminating the results of plastic waste and marine litter research and scientific insights into to the issue of marine litter and plastic waste and the policies that address these issues. This time she was an invited speaker at the EU Action to Combat Marine Litter Workshop. The meeting was chaired by MEP Simona Bonafè of the European Parliament Committee ENVI (Environment Public Health and Food Safety). Several points were made by Dr. Leslie (see also here) including that Europe urgently needs to elucidate the human health impacts of not only the chemicals in plastics but also the plastic particulates being emitted from plastic products, as this could represent a significant impact in addition to environmental and economic impacts. Drawing on the conclusions of the CleanSea FP7 Project, she called for strong leadership from European policy makers, comprehensive redesign of polluting products, and political engagement of citizens across Europe.
3 May 2017, European Parliament, Altiero Spinelli Building, Brussels.
Science meets Art in the Anthropocene
19 May 2017
E&H scientist Heather Leslie teamed up with Shanghai-based artist Cheng Guo to develop an interdisciplinary joint proposal which won the BIO ART DESIGN AWARD (May 2017). The competition is sponsored by the NWO (Dutch Research Council – Earth and Life Sciences, Humanities, The Hague), ZonMW (Medical Research Council, The Hague), MU Artspace (Eindhoven) and BioArt Laboratories (Eindhoven). The aim of the award is to stimulate interest, excitement and debate about the life sciences through high-quality, original artistic practice, examine the social, cultural and ethical contexts of the life sciences through the arts, and promote high-quality interdisciplinary practice and collaborations between art/ design and science/technology. The project the artist-scientist team will carry out between June and December 2017 is entitled “Anon. An Intervention in the Anthropocene”. It focuses on exploring the relationship between human activities and the environment within the context of Anthropocene. Read more
Synthetic microfibers in washing machines in the news
16 May 2017
E&H researchers Heather Leslie and Dick Vethaak weighed in on some current end-of-pipe solutions to keep synthetic textile microfibers out of wastewater streams. These microfibers are persistent plastic particulates that do not degrade in the environment. They are present not only in wastewater but throughout the indoor and outdoor environment and food systems, as previous E&H studies have shown. Quoted in the Dutch daily newspaper, Trouw, Leslie and Vethaak make the case that especially the very fine microfibers are environmental pollutants that may pose risks to public health. It is laudable that people are searching for ways to reduce the enormous volume of global microfiber emissions at the washing machine stage. However, because 5 billion people do not have access to washing machines currently, approaches need to be sought also in the design phase, if we are to significantly prevent synthetic microfiber emissions and exposure worldwide.
Eva Sugeng wins poster prize at BFR2017
11 May 2017
At 10 May Eva Sugeng has won the poster prize at the international symposium BFR2017 in York, UK. Her poster entitled: “Toddler exposure to flame retardants, health concern and potential risk - or protective factors of exposure: a systematic review” drew so much attention of the jury that they awarded her with this prize, being 300£ plus a bottle of wine and a book about York. Of course this is a great impulse for her work towards her Ph D. The paper related to this poster has been submitted meanwhile.
Pim Leonards to hold his inaugural lecture at June 22
10 May 2017
The inauguration of Dr. Pim Leonards as Professor in Environmental Bioanalytical Chemistry will take place at 22 June at 15.45 in the Great Hall of the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. The title of his inaugural speech (in Dutch) is: ‘Stof(fen) tot nadenken’ (Substances to think about). The inauguration is open to the public.
VU ranked 4th on the CWR World ranking for Environmental Studies
8 May 2017
The Vrije Universiteit has recently been ranked 4th on the CWR World ranking for Environmental Studies, following the Universities of Wageningen (the Netherlands), Berkeley (California) and Oxford. The Dep. Environment & Health is, together with IVM an integral part of the environmental studies at the Vrije Universiteit. The ranking underlines the top quality of research and teaching of VU E&H.
Petra Krystek co-author of paper on risks of engineered nanoparticles
8 May 2017
Petra Krystek is one of the authors of a just published paper on risks of engineered nanoparticles. The open access paper of Miller et al., entitled ‘Inhaled Nanoparticles Accumulate at Sites of Vascular Disease’ appeared on line in ACS Nano. The authors warn for health risks of engineered nanoparticles for vascular diseases.
Jacob de Boer quoted in Dutch newspaper AD and interviewed on tv about GenX
15 April 2017
The Chemours chemical plant in Dordrecht should stop pumping a chemical called GenX into the Merwede river because of risk to the drinking water, the infrastructure ministry and water board officials say. GenX is used to make teflon and replaces C8 (PFOA), which is a cancer-causing chemical. Professor Jacob de Boer says GenX is also toxic and should be banned as soon as possible. De Boer was also interviewed by the Ducth news programme 'EenVandaag'.
Microplastic contamination widespread throughout Dutch marine and freshwater systems
21 February 2017
These findings are described in a new publication by E&H researchers in collaboration with Prof. Dick Vethaak of both the VU-E&H and Deltares. The diverse dataset shows that plastic pollution is found at significant concentrations in major Dutch rivers, treated wastewater effluents, Amsterdam canals, several coastal marine species, as well as in estuarine and marine sediments off the Dutch coast. The environmental monitoring of plastic concentrations is a key aspect in the process of pollution mitigation, and this study provides the best baseline available to date for microplastic pollution in the Netherlands. Contact: email@example.com
Workshop 11-12 April: NORMAN Integrated Exposure and Effects Assessment
17 February 2017
Our department organizes a two-day workshop on Integrated Exposure and Effects Assessment, in collaboration with the US Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute for Environmental Studies of Japan. It will be held at VU University Amsterdam on 11 and 12 April. This NORMAN workshop will address research scientists as well as policy-makers and aims at providing an overview of the critical issues related to the integrated assessment of exposure and effects of emerging pollutants. It will also offer the opportunity to discuss recommendations for WFD Review in 2019. Read more
Research with embryos of zebrafish shows risk rubber granules in artificial grass
15 February 2017
Toxicologists Jessica Legradi, Sicco Brandsma and Jacob de Boer exposed embryos of zebra fish for one day to undiluted water that had been in contact with rubber granules. These embryos died within five days. In diluted water, the fish embryos showed hyperactive behavior. Prof. Jacob de Boer: "The results of the zebrafish study are an important indicator of potential health effects in humans, but more research is needed to determine this. We don't know yet how much and which toxic substances are present." Read the news item (In Dutch)
Pim Leonards in C2W Magazine about brominated flame retardants
13 February 2017
Prof. Pim Leonards was interviewed by the Dutch chemistry journal C2W about sustainable alternatives to brominated flame retardants. Leonards talks about the European ENFIRO research project that studied alternative flame retardants, based on metal and phosphorous chemistry. These flame retardants have long been on the market but there was very little information about their toxicity and fate. Leonards studied the toxicity, persistency and bioaccumulation of seventeen non-halogenated alternatives to traditional flame retardants. Read the article (in Ducth)
Jacob de Boer interviewed by Dutch chemistry journal C2W
13 February 2017
In C2W Magazine Prof. Jacob de Boer is interviewed about his career as an environmental chemist, the research of the new department Environment and Health, exposure to indoor pollution, the impact of environmental contaminants, the role played by the chemical industry and more. Read the article (in Ducth)
Heather Leslie interviewed on TV about microplastics
24 January 2017
E&H scientist Heather Leslie discusses our exposure to plastic particles in food and drinks in VPRO documentary “The Plastic Paradise”. The programme is the third episode in a four-part series presented by Roland Duong and Marijn Frank. It was broadcast first on 22 January 2017 at 21:05 on NPO2 by Dutch broadcaster, VPRO in the program “De Prijsvechter” (The Bargain Basement). It can be viewed online (in Dutch). The fragment starts at 35.22 mins.
Lack of sleep may lead to consumption of more calories
3 November 2016
A broad-based meta-study, in which nutritionist Gerda Pot participated, shows that people may consume more calories the day after experiencing lack of sleep. Her study combines results from numerous smaller intervention studies to obtain stronger evidence about the consequences of lack of sleep. Her meta-study shows that people eat an average of 385 kcal more the day after experiencing lack of sleep than people who have had sufficient sleep, equivalent to about 4.5 slices of bread. The researchers published their article in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The New York Times published a news article about this study.
Banned chemical substances survive after recycling
29 October 2016
Environment and Health researchers were commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment to determine the amount of banned flame retardant in plastic waste streams. It turns out to be a lot. Heather Leslie: ‘We examined products in the plastic waste streams in the Netherlands which we knew to have contained brominated flame retardants, such as electronic waste and old car parts. Our analysis showed that in 2013, 7.2 tonnes of banned brominated flame retardant came back into circulation through reuse and recycling.’
Prof. Jacob de Boer about GenX on RAI Uno
24 October 2016
Prof. Jacob de Boer was interviewed briefly about GenX in a programme on RAI Uno. This chemical has been used by Chemours chemical company in Dordrecht since 2012 to make Teflon, a material which is used in non-stick surfaces for example. Chemours markets Genx as a safe alternative to perfluorooctane acid (PFOA), which is carcinogenic. De Boer explained in the programme that Genx does not remain in the body as long as PFOA (the body eliminates the substance within a few days); however, it does dissolve more easily in water. That makes it more likely to enter the water supply than PFOA. Since the substance is persistent and does not decompose easily, toxicologists expect it to start accumulating in drinking water within a few years. Watch the broadcast (starts at 45 min. 50 secs.).
Teflon plant Chemours is is emitting cancer-causing chemicals
20 July 2016
Dordrecht teflon plant Chemours (formally DuPont) is emitting a cancer-causing chemical into the atmosphere which endangers the health of workers and locals, the Volkskrant said on Wednesday. The substance, known as GenX, has been shown to cause cancer, liver and kidney disease and fertility issues in mice and rats, the paper said. Toxicologists are now calling on Chemours to stop emissions of GenX via the plant chimneys. ‘You cannot just spread this sort of poison in residential areas,’ toxicology professor Jacob de Boer told the paper (source: www.dutchnews.nl). Read more
Professor Jacob de Boer interviewed on TV about poisonous fish
28 June 2016
Around fifty people die each year from what is known as ciguatera: a disease contracted by eating fish containing the poison ciguatoxin. This poison is found in algae and tropical fish such as barracuda and bass, which eat other fish that have consumed the algae, thus storing the poison in their body. Algae containing the poison mostly grow in the Caribbean. The risk of poisoned fish entering the Dutch market is miniscule. ‘Because inspection is so thorough here’, toxicologist Jacob de Boer explains. But he advises anyone holidaying in the Caribbean to be cautious.
Late evening meals do not cause children to gain weight
17 May 2016
Eating meals after eight in the evening does not cause children in England to gain weight. That is the conclusion of a King’s College London study led by nutritionist Dr Gerda Pot, currently working at VU University Amsterdam and King’s College London. Her findings contradict previous research which suggested a possible link between eating late in the evening and an increased risk of obesity and metabolic disorder. The study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.