Exposure to bisphenols and parabens during pregnancy and relations to steroid changes

Environ Res. 2018 May:163:115-122. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.01.031. Epub 2018 Feb 22.


Background: The harmful effects of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) on human health are generally well-known, and exposure during fetal development may have lasting effects. Fetal exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) has been recently relatively well-studied; however, less is known about alternatives such as bisphenol S (BPS), bisphenol F (BPF) and bisphenol AF (BPAF), which have started to appear in consumer products. Parabens are another widespread group of EDCs, with confirmed transplacental passage. The usage of many cosmetic, pharmaceutical and consumer products during the pregnancy that may contain parabens and bisphenols has led to the need for investigation.

Objectives: To shed more light into the transplacental transport of BPA, its alternatives, and parabens, and to study their relation to fetal steroidogenesis.

Methods: BPA, BPS, BPF, BPAF, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, benzylparaben and 15 steroids including estrogens, corticoids, androgens and immunomodulatory ones were determined in 27 maternal (37th week of pregnancy) and cord plasma samples using liquid chromatography - tandem mass spectrometry methods.

Results: In cord blood, significantly higher BPA levels (p=0.0455) were observed compared to maternal plasma. The results from multiple regression models showed that in cord blood, methylparaben (β=-0.027, p=0.027), propylparaben (β=-0.025, p=0.03) and the sum of all measured parabens (β=-0.037, p=0.015) were inversely associated with testosterone levels.

Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study reporting the simultaneous detection of BPA, alternative bisphenols, parabens and steroids in maternal and cord plasma. Our study confirmed the transplacental transport of BPA, with likely accumulation in the fetal compartment. The negative association of cord blood parabens and testosterone levels points to possible risks with respect to importance of testosterone for prenatal male development.

Keywords: Bisphenol; Endocrine disruptor; Paraben; Pregnancy; Steroid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / pharmacology
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Endocrine Disruptors* / pharmacokinetics
  • Estrogens / physiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood* / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Parabens* / pharmacokinetics
  • Phenols / pharmacokinetics
  • Pregnancy


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Estrogens
  • Parabens
  • Phenols
  • bisphenol A