Health & Medical Environmental

Exposure to Bisphenol A and Triclosan Among Pregnant Women

Exposure to Bisphenol A and Triclosan Among Pregnant Women

Abstract and Introduction


Background Bisphenol A (BPA) and triclosan (TCS) are two nonpersistent chemicals that have been frequently measured in spot urine samples from the general population but less so in pregnant women; however, data are limited on the free (bioactive) and conjugated forms of these phenols.

Objectives The Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) Study addressed these data gaps by utilizing stored maternal urine samples from a large multicenter cohort study of Canadian pregnant women.

Methods Concentrations of free and conjugated forms of BPA and TCS were measured in about 1,890 first-trimester urine samples by ultra performance liquid chromatograpy–tandem mass spectrometry using isotope dilution.

Results The glucuronides of BPA and TCS were the predominant forms of these chemicals measured (detected in 95% and 99% of samples, respectively), whereas the free forms were detected in 43% and 80% of samples, respectively. The geometric mean urinary concentrations for glucuronides of BPA and TCS were 0.80 μg/L (95% CI: 0.75, 0.85) and 12.30 μg/L (95% CI: 11.08, 13.65), respectively. Significant predictors of BPA included maternal age < 25 vs. ≥ 35 years, current smoking, low vs. high household income, and low vs. high education. For TCS, urinary concentrations were significantly higher in women ≥ 25 years of age, never vs. current smokers, and women with high household income and high education.

Conclusions The results from this study represent the largest national-level data on urinary concentrations of free and conjugated forms of BPA and TCS in pregnant women and suggest that maternal characteristics predicting elevated urinary concentrations of these phenols largely act in opposite directions.


Leaching of bisphenol A (BPA) has been reported from food cans and polycarbonate bottles, paper receipts, and dental sealants and fillings (Hoyle and Budway 1997; Joskow et al. 2006; Lu et al. 2013). BPA does not bioaccumulate and has a very short half-life in humans, with elimination of the conjugated BPA in about 6 hr in the urine (Völkel et al. 2002). Orally administered BPA is rapidly and efficiently absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and undergoes first-pass metabolism in the gut wall and liver, biotransforming BPA to its conjugated forms: BPA glucuronide (BPAG), which is devoid of estrogenic activity (Matthews et al. 2001) and BPA monosulfate (BPAS) and disulfate (BPADS).

Exposure to BPA is widespread, with > 90% of the populations of the United States and Canada having detectable urinary concentrations (Calafat et al. 2008a; Health Canada 2013). Evidence regarding effects of prenatal BPA exposure on fetal growth and birth weight is conflicting. For example, in a Dutch cohort study, BPA exposure was associated with lower fetal growth rates and lower birth weight (Snijder et al. 2013); however, BPA was not associated with birth weight in a Chinese cohort (Tang et al. 2013). Similarly, some studies have estimated significant associations between maternal urinary concentrations of BPA and child behavior (Braun et al. 2011; Harley et al. 2013; Perera et al. 2012), whereas others have reported no associations (Miodovnik et al. 2011; Yolton et al. 2011). These ambiguous findings may reflect differences in study populations or methodological issues related to exposure assessment.

Triclosan (TCS) is an antibacterial compound used in some cosmetic products, toothpaste, treated textiles, and food contact materials, such as cutting boards and countertops (Health Canada and Environment Canada 2012). TCS may be an endocrine disruptor, with some evidence in laboratory animals of effects on thyroid hormone homeostasis and possibly the reproductive axis (Dann and Hontela 2011). Only two epidemiologic studies have explored potential health effects of prenatal exposure to TCS on birth size, and both reported no significant association (Philippat et al. 2012; Wolff et al. 2008).

Triclosan is highly lipid soluble and rapidly absorbed from the gut, and it has a urinary elimination half-life of 11 hr, with an estimated 0.5% present in the unconjugated form within 24 hr of exposure and the majority of the compound as the glucuronide (Sandborgh-Englund et al. 2006). TCS was detected in approximately three-fourths of the urine samples collected as part of the 2003–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of the U.S. population (Calafat et al. 2008b) and the 2009–2011 Canadian Health Measures Survey (Health Canada 2013).

Given the unique vulnerability of pregnant women and their fetuses and the possibility that these chemicals may be endocrine disruptors, it is important to examine the extent of exposure in this population, especially during the critical exposure window of the first trimester. Because the free form of these phenols may be more toxicologically active than the conjugated forms, measurement of urinary concentrations of free BPA and TCS may provide a superior metric of the biologically effective dose.

The objectives of the current study were to a) measure the extent of exposure to free and conjugated forms of BPA and TCS during pregnancy among a population of Canadian women; and b) identify predictors of elevated body burdens of these chemicals. This research offered a unique opportunity to efficiently examine these issues in a large diverse population using stored biological specimens and data collected in this prospective pregnancy cohort study.

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