Environmental factor – March 2024: Call for proposals on microscopic plastics, health effects

Environmental factor – March 2024: Call for proposals on microscopic plastics, health effects

New research shows that there are ten to 100 times more tiny plastic particles called nanoplastics in single-use bottled water than previously thought. In addition, recent evidence shows the presence of microplastics, which are larger than microscopic nanoplastics but smaller than 5 millimeters, in human lung tissue, blood and placenta, as well as in human breast milk.

Fingers with microplastics on them
Microplastics are smaller than 5 millimeters and nanoplastics cannot be seen with the naked eye. (Image courtesy of chayanuphol / Shutterstock.com)

“How the presence of these microplastics and nanoplastics in the air, water, food, clothing and other environmental media, as well as their entry into the human body, affects health is not well understood,” said Lingamanaidu Ravichandran, Ph.D. , a program officer who leads a research portfolio that includes micro/nanoplastics. “NIEHS is committed to promoting research to understand the potential effects on human health.”

To this end, the institute has expressed particular interest in grant applications that investigate health exposure to microplastics and nanoplastics and their health effects. Check out the following tips for applicants below.

  1. Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Understanding exposure and health effects from micro and/or nanoplastics
    Notice of Special Interest (NOT-ES-23-002).
  2. Application deadline
    Applications can be submitted through one of the following funding opportunity announcements until 16 November 2027.
    • PA-20-185: Research Project Grant (parent R01 clinical trial not authorized).
    • PA-20-195: NIH Research/Development Grant Program (parent R21 clinical trial not authorized).
    • PA-20-196: NIH Research/Development Grants Program (parent R21 basic human experimental research required).
  3. Who is eligible?
    Institutions of higher education, for-profit organizations, not-for-profit organizations, local governments, including Native American/Native American tribal governments, and community-based organizations. See the full list in the funding opportunity announcements above.
  4. NOSI-specific types
    • NIEHS seeks to support research that improves understanding of the physicochemical characteristics, exposure, and associated human health effects of microplastics and nanoplastics.
    • Applications should include a team of researchers with multidisciplinary expertise. It is strongly recommended that the proposed studies be well controlled; special emphasis is placed on the characterization of micro- or nanoplastic species by size, shape and type; and attention is paid to the ecologically relevant concentrations and the most important characteristics of micro or nanoplastics.
    • Research focused on exposure assessment may include, but is not limited to: developing screening methods to rapidly detect, quantify and assess exposure levels to micro/nanoplastics in air, food, drinking water and biological fluids or fabrics; development of analytical methods to assess the size, shape, type, surface properties and chemical composition of micro/nanoplastics; and developing sensor/monitoring technologies or tools to detect personal exposure levels.
    • Studies focusing on health effects may include, but are not limited to: characterizing biological or toxicological effects, such as oxidative stress, inflammation, gut microbiome, or other systemic effects; use of alternative model systems (eg zebrafish, Caenorhabditis elegans) for toxicity studies; and characterizing the biodistribution, bioaccumulation, and release of well-characterized and environmentally important micro/nanoplastics.
    • To be considered for funding, applicants must include NOT-ES-23-002 (without quotation marks) in the Agency Route Identifier field (Box 4B) of the SF424 R&R form. Applications without this information in box 4B will not be considered for this initiative.
  5. Additional resources

Please direct all questions regarding the scientific aspects of this NOSI to Lingamanaidu V. Ravichandran, Ph.D.

Quote: Qian N, Gao X, Lang X, Deng H, Bratu TM, Chen Q, Stapleton P, Yan B, Min W. 2024. Rapid single-particle chemical imaging of nanoplastics by SRS microscopy. Proc Natl Acad Sci 121(3):e2300582121.

(Caroline Stettler is editor-in-chief of Environmental Factor, produced monthly by the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Affairs.)

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