We’re hiring four PhD students in Organic / Analytical Chemistry

9 April 2021

applyWe’re hiring four PhD students in Organic / Analytical Chemistry who are interested in an European Industrial Doctorate (EID) within an ambitious multidisciplinary project on reference materials for the environmental contaminants chlorinated paraffins (CPs) and perfluorinated alkyl compounds (PFAS). Would you help us find the right candidates? Or maybe it’s you? Please apply by 30 April 2021. Get paid while earning your PhD in a groundbreaking Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Training Network (ETN) REVAMP @VU Amsterdam. Applicants must apply online via

In Commemoration of Jan Willem Wegener

8 April 2021

jan-willem-wegenerOn Tuesday 30 March our former colleague Jan Willem Wegener has passed away. Jan Willem started his career at the Institute of Environmental Studies (IVM) in 1984. He has worked on many different projects, which, in those years, were characteristic for the advisory work that was carried out at IVM. It required a high degree of flexibility and a thorough understanding of analysis of chemical contaminants and processes in the environment. Later in his career Jan Willem focused on the quality of analysis and especially of organic contaminants such as polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Together with Bert van der Horst, Jan Willem was responsible for the quality of data that left the IVM laboratory. Jan Willem really liked to look in depth at data. He surely did not like time pressure, when that would interfere with quality. Furthermore, Jan Willem was regularly invited by the Community Bureau of Reference of the European Union (BCR) as a specialist in PCB and PAH analysis to contribute to the certification of reference materials (CRMs). In those years, this was groundbreaking research that made the first reference materials for PCBs available. In addition to delivering high quality data, Jan Willem was always very constructive in the discussions in Brussels. He had a sharp eye for even the smallest deviation and in that way he really contributed to the high quality of the new CRMs. Later Jan Willem also became involved in QUASIMEME, the proficiency testing organization for environmental analyses. Jan Willem was one the active participants who helped to build this program when it arose from its phase as an European project. 

Jan Willem was always good company. He liked to travel, although preferably by train. He could really absorb the local atmosphere of a place and very much enjoy it. We remember the various visits to Brussels and drinking a beer together in one of the pubs at the Grand Market. Jan Willem was good at contemplating about situations, whether politics or work or some other issue. He was never harsh in discussions, but tried to find new and interesting points of view. It is very sad to know that he is no longer among us. We will remind him respectfully and with gratitude for the many years we shared in environmental research.

We’re hiring a PhD student in Analytical Environmental Chemistry

25 Februari 2021


We’re hiring a PhD student in Analytical Environmental Chemistry for the challenge of measuring plastic particles for a human risk assessment. Would you help us find the right candidate? Or maybe it’s you? Please apply by 18 March 2021. Get paid while earning your PhD in a groundbreaking EU H2020 project, POLYRISK. @VU Amsterdam. Applicants must apply online via


28 Januari 2021


Research of the Dept. E&H in 2017 on hazardous substances in crumb rubber at football fields, several publications and a recent PhD thesis of Ewa Skoczynska of this department has contributed to a ban of crumb rubber on Dutch football fields. This ban was announced 28 January 2021 by the minister for Public Health and Sports, Tamara van Ark, together with state secretary Stientje van Veldhoven. The ban follows recommendations of the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) to refrain from use of crumb rubber of sports fields.


8 December 2020 


After six months of production work, the art-science initiative Becoming a Sentinel Species involving E&H and MCBI is being exhibited in MU Artspace in Eindhoven. The group show, entitled “Evolutionaries: Bio Art and Design from Sea to Soul”, opens 11 December 2020 and runs through 7 March 2021. The artwork takes the form of a science fiction film with dreamlike qualities, and will be exhibited in the gallery space as an installation with 

artefacts from the film’s production. The film explores philosophical questions surrounding environmental microplastic pollution, the sentinel species exposed to it, their immunological responses, and our common evolutionary ties to each other and our planet. The concept is a co-creation of Danish artist Sissel Marie Tonn, microplastic scientist Heather Leslie (E&H) and immunologist Juan Garcia Vallejo (MCBI, AUMC-VUmc location). Becoming a Sentinel Species won the Bio Art & Design Award in 2020, an international prize promoting collaboration between the fine arts and sciences sponsored by ZonMw, MU Artspace and BioArt Laboratories.



4 July 2020 

plaatje-REVAMPA group of E&H researchers led by Prof. Jacob de Boer, together with Prof. Govert Somsen from the Division of BioAnalytical Chemistry received a one million euro grant for the Eurostars project REVAMP. This is the second Eurostars grant acquired within one year, following the CHLOFFIN project. 

The chemical metrology sector has not been able to keep up with the pace of the chemical industry, which introduces ca. 2,000 new chemicals in the market every year. Most chemicals in use today remain almost completely unknown regarding persistence and impact on the environment and society. Delayed action on emerging chemical pollutants has resulted in widespread human exposure and risks, and lessons should be learned from this example and not repeated for the newer chemicals entering the market. Thus, the metrology sector is under strong pressure to radically improve and become highly efficient. The REVAMP (Reference materials and validated methods for emerging pollutants) project aims at supporting this change by providing cutting-edge training to four young researchers fostering enhanced sustainability of the chemical metrology. This will be achieved through development and production of new certified reference materials for the assessment of chlorinated paraffins and perfluorinated alkyl compounds (PFAS) in particular. The Early-Stage Researcher (ESRs) will combine academic research and industrial knowledge to overcome specific challenges at the interface of organic and analytical chemistry and toxicology, applied to chemical metrology. The ESRs will be trained by an innovative network composed of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and five leading companies/institutes covering key subsectors of the chemical metrology value chain. The REVAMP ESRs will obtain a doctoral degree (European Industrial Doctorate) and gain strong skills that match the needs from both industry and academia, significantly increasing their employability and career prospects. The consortium will be led by Dr. Sicco Brandsma. E&H staff members Louise van Mourik, Marja Lamoree, Timo Hamers and Pim Leonards will also join in.


3 July 2020 

plaatje_Cleansea_tcm296-859985Four researchers from the Environment & Health (E&H) department will participate in an European research consortium with 15 partners that has received € 2 million. The consortium will focus on harmonization of microplastics analysis methods. The European research project is called EUROqCHARM: EUROpean quality Controlled Harmonization Assuring Reproducible Monitoring and assessment of plastic pollution. The E&H scientists involved are Sicco Brandsma, Heather Leslie, Louise van Mourik and Jacob de Boer. 

Numerous protocols, rarely comparable 

In recent years plastic pollution has become a global environmental and societal concern. Numerous protocols have been developed to monitor plastic debris, but these are rarely comparable. This has hindered gathering of knowledge regarding pollution sources, development of monitoring programmes and risk assessments, and implementation of mitigation measures. EUROqCHARM will address this by critically reviewing state-of-the-art analytical methods and harmonise and validate them through inter laboratory comparison studies. This will bring together prominent laboratories in environmental plastics analysis and will produce certified reference materials to be marketed for water, soil or sediment, biota and air. 

Recommendations for policy and legislation 

Blueprints for standards, recommendations for policy and legislation, and support for the establishment of acceptable reference levels and environmental targets will be given. To maximise impact, EUROqCHARM will also establish an operational network for plastic monitoring, stimulating transnational joint actions built on existing and future European and international initiatives.


2 July 2020 

Bioart-2020A collaborative project by artist Sissel Marie Tonn, VU Environment & Health microplastic scientist Dr. Heather Leslie and VUmc-MCBI immunologist Dr. Juan Garcia Vallejo MD at the interface of art, microplastics pollution and immune system has been selected by an international jury for the Bio Art & Design Award 2020. The BAD Award aims to promote high-quality interdisciplinary practice and collaborations between art/ design and science. The artist-scientist team will be further developing their project entitled ‘Becoming a Sentinel Species’, to be exhibited in the MU Artspace in Eindhoven, opening 11 December 2020. Read more.

New Head of E&H Department

1 July 2020

duursenToxicologist Majorie van Duursen has been named head of the Environment and Health (E&H) department with effect from 1 July 2020 until the formation of a new department. The E&H department is currently in intense discussions with the Ecological Sciences and Molecular Cell Biology departments on the formation of a joint department. In light of this development, a decision was taken in consultation with the dean that the current head of department, Jacob de Boer, should hand over the role to Majorie van Duursen from 1 July.


7 May

LabAnalysesDue to the corona crisis the VU laboratories have been closed during the last weeks. However, since 1 May laboratory research is slowly starting up, also at the Dept. of Environment & Health. This means that PFAS analyses can be carried out again, although the delivery times may be somewhat longer than normal. If you have questions about PFAS analyses and delivery of samples, please contact our lab coordinator mr. Jacco Koekkoek, tel. no. +31 20 5989539, email:


7 February

applyA recent study led by VU-toxicologist Timo Hamers (Dept. Environment & Health) has demonstrated that chemicals in house dust can disrupt transport of thyroid hormone. For pregnant women, this can be detrimental to the brain development of the unborn child. Read more.


13 December

applyCalling all MSc graduates in analytical environmental chemistry interested in microplastics to apply for a paid 3-year PhD position @VU Amsterdam as part of the new, cool LimnoPlast EU MSCA Innovative Training Network. Deadline for applications 1 Feb 2020. Applicants must apply online via:


13 December 2019

Deadline for registration 31 January 2020

news13decemberDownload information flyer Microplastics Interlaboratory study - second round
Download application form Microplastics Interlaboratory study - second round

VU Plastic pollution research in spotlight at Plastic Health Summit

4 October 2019

plastic-health-summitThe VU’s plastic pollution scientists Dr. Heather Leslie and Prof. Dr. Dick Vethaak (VU and Deltares) made important contributions to plenary session of the Plastic Health Summit on 3 October 2019 in Amsterdam.
Read more.

Program symposium on 3 December is known

11 October 2019

EHsymposium2019newsWith pleasure we announce the program for our symposium “Waste – a Matter of Taste” on 3 December 2019 (9:30-16:30).

Registration is free and mandatory.

Download the program
Register for the symposium


SavetheDateA growing world population with intensive economies, global markets and increasing transport is creating enormous piles of waste. Up to 2015, over 6 billion tons of plastic waste were produced by humans, which is equivalent to 60 million blue whales. While wastewater treatment plants and incinerators exist as waste management strategies, materials and chemicals that do not degrade easily are still being produced. How do we deal with all that waste? Can we recycle waste to safe consumer products in circular economies? What kind of chemicals end up in the waste or recycled products? What are the effects of chemicals in waste on our environmental resources and our health?

Following two earlier successful symposia, the VU department of Environment & Health is organizing a symposium on 3 December 2019 under the title Waste – a Matter of Taste to discuss these issues with scientists, authorities and industry representatives. The full-day program is designed to pose thought-provoking questions, and will provide ample opportunity for discussion and networking with scientists, health professionals and other stakeholders. More information will be announced later. Please save the date!

Read more and Save the Date 3 December 2019.

To register click here.

VU E&H top scorer in Eurostars project on chlorinated paraffins

13 September 2019

eurekaThe CHLOFFIN research project proposal, for which the Department of Environment and Health is a partner in, received an Eureka award for coming 3rd out of 325 Eurostars proposals. This project will focus on the development of reference standards for the analysis of chlorinated paraffins. The team will be working closely with Chiron, Norway and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) – European Commission. The projects will commence in Autumn 2019 and run for three years.

Contact: Jacob de Boer and Louise van Mourik

Discussion on flame retardants in Science continues

10 September 2019

flamesThe article of Jacob de Boer and Heather Stapleton in Science from April 2019 (Vol. 364, Issue 6437, pp. 231-232) generated a letter to the editor by authors from the North American Flame Retardant Alliance. They claim that there are clear differences between flame retardants and not all halogenated flame retardants are toxic. This letter and the rebuttal of de Boer and Stapleton appeared Friday 6 September in Science (Vol. 365, Issue 6457, pp. 993).

The discussion continues with the reaction of a colleague which also has been published in Dutch regional newspapers.

Vacancy Tenure track Assistant Professor Microplastics

25 July 2019

NewVacancyDo you want to make a contribution to sustainability through excellence in research and teaching?

Please apply at our vacancy for Tenure track Assistant Professor Microplastics research at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam here

Dutch Royal Couple visits Marine Science Workshop: Start New Collaboration for VU

20 May 2019

Willem-Alexander-Maxima-smallKing Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima advocated for scientific research into the risks of plastic pollution and climate change by attending the North Sea Meets Baltic Sea Science Workshop held in Warnemünde (Rostock), Germany on 20 May 2019 in the presence of the international press. They were introduced to Baltic Sea scientific facts by Prof. Ulrich Bathmann, Director of the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research (IOW), who hosted the Royal Couple, Minister-President Manuela Schwesig, and 50 invited scientists from Germany and the Netherlands. The Dutch King and Queen also were treated to a live micro-lecture on marine microplastics on the Baltic Sea beach adjacent to the IOW. With the power of attorney granted by the VU’s Rector Magnificus V. Subramaniam, Dr. Heather Leslie of the VU’s Dept. of Environment and Health signed the Letter of Intent to intensify cooperation between 12 Dutch and German scientific institutions. Read more

European experts on micro- and nanoplastic analysis convene to discuss state-of-the-art

14 May 2019

European experts on micro- and nanoplastic analysis converge to discuss state-of-the-artIn Ispra, Italy (13 and 14 May 2019) key European scientific experts in micro- and nanoplastics analysis met with diverse EC Joint Research Centre scientists and managers, representatives of European Commission DGs, European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to present the state of the art in micro- and nanoplastics analysis in real world samples. The workshop was billed as “State-of-the-art of analytical methods for reliable detection of micro- and nanoplastics” and quality assurance and quality control of both sampling and analysis were hot topics. 

E&H microplastics expert Dr. Heather Leslie presented the microplastics interlaboratory study that was initiated by VU E&H and is currently ongoing in collaboration with NIVA, QUASIMEME and the NORMAN network. There is intensive interest in this area at the European level as well as for researchers from academia to commercial labs who are seeking to improve their laboratory performance and validate their analytical methods. VU E&H is pleased to collaborate with our existing and future partners on analysis and development of QA/QC tools such as interlaboratory studies, development exercises and the preparation of reference materials in order to bring our understanding of microplastics in environmental, human and consumer product matrices to the next level. 

The group agreed that the way forward for microplastics analysis includes more attention to analytical development, increasing opportunities for equipment sharing/purchasing, developing more QAQC tools, and later on down the road, formal standardization of methods. It was also noted that without standardized methods there is already enough information available to draft and implement legislation concerning microplastics such as the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), various bans on microbead in cosmetics worldwide, voluntary phase outs, and the most recent proposal to regulate intentionally added microplastics submitted the EC by the ECHA. For answering burning research questions and for strengthening the evidence base of the risks of micro and nanoplastics, continued investments in micro- and nanoplastic analytics are essential.

Download programme here

"Harmful fire retardants must be banned"

23 April 2019

Jacob-de-BoerAuthorities should prohibit industry from continuing to produce harmful flame retardants, as there are good alternatives. This is advocated by VU professor Jacob de Boer in an opinion piece in Science. Already in 1998 De Boer and colleagues published in Nature about the dangers of fire retardants with halogens in them. The halogens in fire retardants - for example, chlorine, bromine and fluorine - are harmful to humans and the environment. Now, more than twenty years later, only three harmful substances are banned. Dozens of other halogen-containing fire retardants are still being produced. Read more (in Dutch)

Read the article Toward fire safety without chemical risk


25 March 2019

MicroplasticsAt a news conference in the Hague 23 March 2019 for the press and policy makers, E&H researchers Heather Leslie and Dick Vethaak gave presentations about a newly launched “Microplastics & Health” research programme in which they, as well as Marja Lamoree of E&H, are participating. They were interviewed on Dutch NPO Radio 1 and for the largest Dutch national daily newspaper, De Telegraaf. The common goal of the 15 upcoming Microplastics & Health studies is to investigate the potential impacts of tiny plastic particles on human health. The programme is the only one of its kind in the world. The programme is mainly sponsored by The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw).


E&H awarded Microplastics & Health research funding

21 February 2019

Zon MWResearchers 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.

Contact: Heather Leslie and Marja Lamoree

European grants for test method development to identify endocrine disruptors

14 January 2019

Endocrine-disruptorsThe department Environment & Health receives over 3 million euros from the European Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020 for three research projects dedicated to develop highly needed test methods for the identification of endocrine disruptors. Majorie van Duursen, Professor Environmental Health and Toxicology: “Endocrine disruptors are present in many products that we use in our daily lives, such as plastics, air fresheners and cosmetics. Currently, we lack dedicated tests to assess endocrine disrupting properties of chemicals in regulatory frameworks for example for chemical substances, pesticides and biocides.” Read more


January 2019

What’s in the plastic soup? That’s what the 8 to 12 year-olds at Amsterdam’s NEMO Science Museum wanted to know at the children’s lectures given by E&H’s Dr. Heather Leslie on 20 January 2019. The interactive 1-hour lecture included energetic knowledge exchange between the scientist and her well-informed young audience. Many ideas were discussed about the reasons why plastic soup is created, what kind of plastic pollution we can detect in nature, who is affected, and how science and creativity can help us prevent the plastic soup from growing, growing, growing. 

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

Marja LamoreePer 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.


29 November 2018

microplastics-workshopA 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.

Microplastics Analytics Workshop report

Read more

Universiteit van Nederland features VU's Plastic Soup Scientist on November 6

16 October 2018

Universiteit van NederlandPrepare 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:
Read more about the lecture.

Plastic Soup session at Springtij Sustainability Conference

1 October 2018

Springtij Sustainability Conference-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

Majorie van DuursenPer 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.


August 2018

WEPALThe 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).

Read more


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.



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.

Read more


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.


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).


30 May 2018

ECHA European Chemicals AgencyE&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.


23 April 2018

FractioMate TM

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.


September 2017

ecE&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.


18 September 2017

CleanSea-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: and

E&H messages to European Parliament: EU Action to Combat Marine Litter Workshop

May 2017

Dr. Heather LeslieE&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.


Link to European parliament press release summarizing the event, and more workshop information.

Science meets Art in the Anthropocene

19 May 2017
Bio Art Design AwardE&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
Washing machineE&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
Eva SugengAt 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
Pim LeonardsThe 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
CWURThe 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 KrystekPetra 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
Jacob de Boer-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
microplasticsThese 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:

Workshop 11-12 April: NORMAN Integrated Exposure and Effects Assessment

17 February 2017
NORMAN workshopOur 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
Environment and HealthToxicologists 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
Pim LeonardsProf. 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
Jacob de BoerIn 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
Heather LeslieE&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
BoterhammenA 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
RecycleEnvironment 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
PanProf. 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
ChemoursDordrecht 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: Read more

Professor Jacob de Boer interviewed on TV about poisonous fish

28 June 2016
Poisonous fishAround 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.