Case Study on Screening Emerging Pollutants in Urine and Nails

Andreia Alves, Georgios Giovanoulis, Ulrika Nilsson, Claudio Erratico, Luisa Lucattini, Line S. Haug, Griet Jacobs, Cynthia A. De Wit, Pim E.G. Leonards, Adrian Covaci, Jörgen Magner, Stefan Voorspoels*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Alternative plasticizers and flame retardants (FRs) have been introduced as replacements for banned or restricted chemicals, but much is still unknown about their metabolism and occurrence in humans. We identified the metabolites formed in vitro for four alternative plasticizers (acetyltributyl citrate (ATBC), bis(2-propylheptyl) phthalate (DPHP), bis(2-ethylhexyl) terephthalate (DEHTP), bis(2-ethylhexyl) adipate (DEHA)), and one FR (2,2-bis (chloromethyl)-propane-1,3-diyltetrakis(2-chloroethyl) bisphosphate (V6)). Further, these compounds and their metabolites were investigated by LC/ESI-Orbitrap-MS in urine and finger nails collected from a Norwegian cohort. Primary and secondary ATBC metabolites had detection frequencies (% DF) in finger nails ranging from 46 to 95%. V6 was identified for the first time in finger nails, suggesting that this matrix may also indicate past exposure to FRs as well as alternative plasticizers. Two isomeric forms of DEHTP primary metabolite were highly detected in urine (97% DF) and identified in finger nails, while no DPHP metabolites were detected in vivo. Primary and secondary DEHA metabolites were identified in both matrices, and the relative proportion of the secondary metabolites was higher in urine than in finger nails; the opposite was observed for the primary metabolites. As many of the metabolites present in in vitro extracts were further identified in vivo in urine and finger nail samples, this suggests that in vitro assays can reliably mimic the in vivo processes. Finger nails may be a useful noninvasive matrix for human biomonitoring of specific organic contaminants, but further validation is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4046-4053
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2017


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