Urinary concentrations of bisphenol A and 4-nonylphenol in a human reference population

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Apr;113(4):391-5. doi: 10.1289/ehp.7534.


Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to manufacture polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, which are used in baby bottles, as protective coatings on food containers, and for composites and sealants in dentistry. 4-Nonylphenol (NP) is used to make nonylphenol ethoxylates, nonionic surfactants applied as emulsifying, wetting, dispersing, or stabilizing agents in industrial, agricultural, and domestic consumer products. The potential for human exposure to BPA and NP is high because of their widespread use. We measured BPA and NP in archived urine samples from a reference population of 394 adults in the United States using isotope-dilution gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The concentration ranges of BPA and NP were similar to those observed in other human populations. BPA was detected in 95% of the samples examined at concentrations > or = 0.1 microg/L urine; the geometric mean and median concentrations were 1.33 microg/L (1.36 microg/g creatinine) and 1.28 microg/L (1.32 microg/g creatinine), respectively; the 95th percentile concentration was 5.18 microg/L (7.95 microg/g creatinine). NP was detected in 51% of the samples examined > or = 0.1 microg/L. The median and 95th percentile concentrations were < 0.1 microg/L and 1.57 microg/L (1.39 microg/g creatinine), respectively. The frequent detection of BPA suggests widespread exposure to this compound in residents of the United States. The lower frequency of detection of NP than of BPA could be explained by a lower exposure of humans to NP, by different pharmacokinetic factors (i.e., absorption, distribution, metabolism, elimination), by the fact that 4-n-nonylphenol--the measured NP isomer--represents a small percentage of the NP used in commercial mixtures, or a combination of all of the above. Additional research is needed to determine the best urinary biomarker(s) to assess exposure to NP. Despite the sample population's nonrepresentativeness of the U.S. population (although sample weights were used to improve the extent to which the results represent the U.S. population) and relatively small size, this study provides the first reference range of human internal dose levels of BPA and NP in a demographically diverse human population.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Environmental Monitoring / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Pollutants / urine*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenols / urine*
  • United States


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Phenols
  • nonylphenol
  • bisphenol A