Target analysis and suspect screening of UV filters, parabens and other chemicals used in personal care products in human cord blood: Prenatal exposure by mother-fetus transfer

Environ Int. 2023 Mar:173:107834. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2023.107834. Epub 2023 Mar 1.


Prenatal exposure to certain organic chemicals like pesticides and phenols has been lifelong associated with birth outcomes and health disorders. Many personal care product (PCP) ingredients have similar properties or structures to those chemicals. Previous studies have documented the occurrence of UV filters (UVFs) and paraben preservatives (PBs) in the placenta, but observational studies concerning PCPs chemicals and foetal exposure are particularly scarce. Thus, this work aimed to assess the presence of a wide range of PCPs chemicals using target and suspect screening in the umbilical cord blood of new born babies to evaluate their potential transfer to the fetus. To do so, we analysed 69 umbilical cord blood plasma samples from a mother-child cohort from Barcelona (Spain). We quantified 8 benzophenone-type UVFs and their metabolites, and 4 PBs using validated analytical methodologies based on target screening using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS). Then, we screened for additional 3246 substances using high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) and advanced suspect analysis strategies. Six UVFs and three parabens were detected in the plasma with frequencies between 1.4% and 17.4% and concentrations up to 53.3 ng/mL (benzophenone-2). Thirteen additional chemicals were tentatively identified in the suspect screening, and ten were further confirmed with the corresponding standards. Among them, we found the organic solvent N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone, the chelating agent 8-hydroxyquinoline, and the antioxidant 2,2'-methylenebis(4-methyl-6-tert-butylphenol), which have been demonstrated to display reproductive toxicity. UVFs and PBs presence in the umbilical cord blood demonstrates mother-fetus transfer through the placental barrier and prenatal exposure to these PCPs chemicals, which may lead to adverse effects in the early stages of fetal development. Considering the small cohort used in this study, the reported results should be interpreted as a preliminary reference for the background umbilical cord transfer levels of the target PCPs chemicals. Further research is needed to determine the long-term consequences of prenatal exposure to PCPs chemicals.

Keywords: Exposome; HRMS; Parabens; Personal care products; UV filters; Umbilical cord blood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cosmetics* / analysis
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry
  • Fetus / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Mothers
  • Parabens / analysis
  • Placenta / chemistry
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods


  • Parabens
  • Cosmetics
  • butylphen