• Factors affecting interpretation of national biomonitoring data from multiple countries: BPA as a case study

      LaKind, Judy S.; Pollock, Tyler; Naiman, Daniel Q.; Kim, Sungroul (Elsevier Inc., 2019-03-19)
      Introduction: The use of biomonitoring data as an indicator of national levels of human exposure to environmental chemicals has grown in importance and prevalence. Nationally representative urinary bisphenol A (BPA) data are now available for Canada, the United States and Korea. Here we address the following questions: Are urinary BPA data from these countries comparable? What can be discerned regarding geographic and/or temporal similarities or differences? Are there generalizable lessons to be learned regarding comparison of biomonitoring results from different countries? Methods: We examined underlying methods and resultant urinary BPA data from national surveys of three countries: Canada (Canadian Health Measures Survey, CHMS, 2009-2015); United States (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, NHANES, 2009–2014); and Korea (Korean National Environmental Health Survey, KoNEHS, 2009–2014). We estimated BPA daily intakes on both a volume- and creatinine-adjusted basis. Results: The three countries use similar methods for analyzing urine samples for BPA and participate in external proficiency testing with acceptable results. Field blanks are only used in the CHMS program. There were program-specific differences in fasting times of participants. Median urinary BPA levels in Canada remained relatively constant over the three cycles (1.1–1.2 ng/ml), while US levels decreased (from 1.9 to 1.3 ng/ml) and Korean levels increased (from 0.7 to 1.1 ng/ml) over similar time periods. The most recent survey year data indicate that levels do not differ substantially across countries. Canadian urinary BPA levels have been stable; the subtle, non-significant decrease in intakes may be due to higher body weight in the more recent Canadian surveys. In contrast, the decrease in intakes in the US appears to be due to decreases in urinary BPA as body weights in the US have been stable. Estimated 95th percentile intakes are over an order of magnitude below current health-based guidance values. Discussion: Our assessment of urinary BPA data from Canada, the US and Korea indicates that methodological differences, methods for dilution adjustment, and population characteristics should be carefully considered when interpreting biomonitoring data. Despite the plethora of publications describing issues with use of creatinine levels for urinary dilution adjustment, there have been no major methodological advances that would assist in interpreting urinary chemical data. A combination of biomonitoring and traditional exposure assessment approaches may be needed to fully assess human exposures to BPA and other chemicals. Conclusions: National biomonitoring surveys provide important information on population levels of chemicals such as BPA and can assist in understanding temporal and geographic similarities, differences, and trends. However, caution must be exercised when using these data to draw anything but broad conclusions, due to both intercountry methodological differences and factors affecting urinary chemical levels that are still poorly understood. While the issues raised in this paper do not appear to be a major concern specifically for the national-scale monitoring of BPA described here, they must be considered when comparing data for other chemicals measured as part of both national and smaller-scale biomonitoring-based research as well as for BPA data from other studies. © 2019