Variability and exposure classification of urinary phenol and paraben metabolite concentrations in reproductive-aged women

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Human exposure to phenols and parabens is widespread. Within-person variability of urinary concentrations in healthy women is not well characterized.


To characterize the variability of urinary phenol and paraben concentrations across two months and evaluate the ability of a single spot urine sample to characterize exposure.


143 women provided 509 spot urine samples collected across two months of study (3–5 samples/woman). We measured urinary concentrations of 8 phenols: bisphenol A (BPA), benzophenone-3 (BP-3), benzophenone-1 (BP-1), 2,4-dichlorophenol (2,4-DCP), 2,5-dichlorophenol (2,5-DCP), 2,4,5-trichlorophenol (2,4,5-TCP), 2,4,6-trichlorophenol (2,4,6-TCP), triclosan (TCS); and 8 parabens and their metabolites (benzyl (BzP), butyl (BuP), ethyl (EtP), heptyl (HeP), methyl (MeP), propyl (PrP), 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (4-HB), 3,4-dihydroxybenzoic acid (3,4-DHB)). Biomarker variability was characterized using the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) and surrogate category analyses were conducted.


ICCs ranged from very low for BPA (0.04) to moderate for BP-3, BP-1, TCS, BzP, and MeP (0.66, 0.58, 0.55, 0.54, and 0.62, respectively). Surrogate analyses suggested that BP-1, BP-3, TCS, 2,4-DCP, BuP, and PrP may be characterized by a single spot sample (sensitivity range 0.76–0.86) but that additional samples were necessary for BPA, HeP, 4-HB, and 3,4-DHB (sensitivity range 0.47–0.61).


Urinary phenol and paraben metabolite concentrations were variable across two months in healthy women but the degree of reliability differed by the specific biomarker. A small number of samples may sufficiently characterize typical concentrations for BP-3, BP-1, TCS, BuP, and PrP; but additional biospecimens may be necessary to characterize exposure for other compounds, including BPA.

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