Riverside Prenatal Biomonitoring Pilot Project: Biomonitoring - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Riverside Prenatal Biomonitoring Pilot Project


The Riverside Prenatal Biomonitoring Pilot Project, a collaboration with the University of Minnesota, measured exposures to environmental phenols (bisphenol A (BPA) and parabens) and cotinine in 66 pregnant women receiving prenatal care at the University of Minnesota in 2009-2010.

  • 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. 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.
  • Cotinine is an indicator of exposure to tobacco smoke. Smoking during pregnancy causes complications during pregnancy and at birth, including premature birth and low birth weight. Secondhand smoke can be harmful later in life.
  • 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 women. 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.

    More information

    For questions or more information, Contact MN Biomonitoring: Chemicals in People.

Updated Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 01:12PM