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.