Life without plastic: A family experiment and biomonitoring study

Environ Res. 2016 Oct;150:639-644. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.05.028. Epub 2016 May 24.


Exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates has been associated with negative health outcomes in animal and human studies, and human bio-monitoring studies demonstrate widespread exposure in the US and Europe. Out of concern for the environment and health, individuals may attempt to modify their environment, diet, and consumer choices to avoid such exposures, but these natural experiments are rarely if ever quantitatively evaluated. The aim of the study was to evaluate the difference in urinary concentrations of BPA and phthalate metabolites following an exposure reduction intervention among an Austrian family of five. Urine samples were taken shortly after the family had removed all plastic kitchenware, toys, and bathroom products, and started a concerted effort to eat less food packaged in plastic. Two-months later, urine samples were collected at a follow-up visit, and concentrations of BPA and phthalate metabolites were compared. Shortly after removal of plastic urinary concentrations of BPA were below limit of quantification in all samples. Phthalate concentrations were low, however, 10 of 14 investigated metabolites could be found above limit of quantification. After the two-month intervention, phthalate urinary concentrations had declined in some but not all family members. In the mother most phthalate metabolites increased. The low levels might be partly due to the environmentally conscious lifestyle of the family and partly due to the fact that body levels had dropped already because of the delay of four days between finishing removal and first measurement. Further two months avoidance of dietary exposure and exposure to environmental plastics reduced urinary concentrations for all but one metabolite in the oldest son only, but decreased somewhat in all family members except the mother.

Keywords: BPA; Exposure; Human biomonitoring; Phthalates; Plastics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Austria
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / urine*
  • Child
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / urine*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Phenols / urine*
  • Phthalic Acids / urine*
  • Plastics


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Phenols
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Plastics
  • bisphenol A