Riverside Prenatal Biomonitoring Pilot Project
The Riverside Prenatal Biomonitoring Pilot Project measured exposures to environmental phenols (bisphenol A (BPA) and parabens) and cotinine in pregnant women. Environmental phenols are found in some plastics and in the lining of most food cans, and in cosmetics and toiletries such as shampoos and lotions. Cotinine is an indicator of exposure to tobacco smoke.
Smoking during pregnancy is known to cause complications during pregnancy and at birth, including premature birth and low birth weight. Secondhand smoke can be harmful later in life. We know less about the effects of exposure to environmental phenols. Some animal studies have found that low levels of BPA may affect fetal development. But human studies are just starting, so we cannot say for certain what any level of BPA measured in the body means for health.
The population in this project included 66 pregnant women who received prenatal care at the University of Minnesota (Riverside) in 2009-2010. This project was added onto the University of Minnesota’s Riverside Birth Study. Participants provided a urine sample, which the MDH Public Health Laboratory tested for 5 environmental phenols (BPA and four parabens: methyl, ethyl, butyl, and propyl paraben). A separate laboratory tested urine samples for cotinine.
BPA, methyl paraben, and propyl paraben (environmental phenols) were detected in the urine of most of the pregnant women in this project. Ethyl and butyl paraben were detected less often. Average BPA levels were similar to those in other studies, but paraben levels were lower than the average for U.S. women. There were differences in exposure by income and racial/ethnic group: methyl paraben levels in non-white women were 3 ½ times higher than in white women, and BPA and methyl paraben levels were highest in the lowest income group.
We classified 14% of the pregnant women in this project as active smokers based on the levels of cotinine in their urine. This result is similar to results from other state and national data, which show that about 13% of women smoke during pregnancy.
Because this was a small pilot project, we cannot conclude that these findings are like those in all Minnesota women. These chemicals leave the body quickly after exposure, so results from one urine sample show only the most recent exposure. Future studies should be larger and include more participants from non-white racial and ethnic groups. Minnesota's Biomonitoring Program has collected many lessons that we learned from our four biomonitoring pilot projects, and we will use these lessons in planning future biomonitoring projects in Minnesota.
- Riverside Prenatal Biomonitoring Pilot Project: Results for bisphenol A and parabens (PDF: 326KB/4 pages), June 2011
- Riverside Prenatal Biomonitoring Pilot Project: Results for cotinine (PDF: 254KB/3 pages), June 2011
For questions or more information, Contact the MN Biomonitoring Program.