A time trend of urinary 4-methylbenzylidene camphor metabolites in young adults from Germany

2023, Journals

Schmidtkunz, C.; Kupper, K.; Weber, T.; Leng, G.; Kolossa-Gehring, M.
Environ Res 228 (2023), 115833; online: 1 July 2023


4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) is used as a UV-B filter in cosmetics. Two oxidized metabolites of 4-MBC - 3-(4-carboxybenzylidene)camphor (cx-MBC) and 3-(4-carboxybenzylidene)-6-hydroxycamphor (cx-MBC-OH) - were analyzed in 250 24-h urine samples from young adults in Germany. The samples were from the German Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB) and represented exposure in the years 1995, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2019. A UHPLC-MS/MS method enabled the sensitive determination of both metabolites, with limits of quantification at 0.15 mug L(-1) (cx-MBC) and 0.30 mug L(-1) (cx-MBC-OH), respectively.

A temporal trend of the internal exposure to 4-MBC was clearly noticeable. The metabolite cx-MBC was frequently quantifiable at the beginning of the period: in 70% of the samples in 1995, and 56% in 2005. After 2005, urinary concentrations and detection rates of cx-MBC dropped to reach very low levels. In 2015 and 2019, the detection rate was only 2% and 0%, respectively. A similar trend was observed for cx-MBC-OH, though overall, this metabolite was detected less often and at lower concentration levels than cx-MBC. Nowadays, measurable levels of urinary 4-MBC metabolites are an extremely rare occurrence in Germany. These trends are consistent with the history of 4-MBC use by the cosmetic industry. The highest measured individual concentration of 16.20 mug L(-1) (in a sample of the year 2005) was still more than 30 times below the health-based guidance value (HBM-I). An investigation of the ratios between both metabolites uncovered several features of the 4-MBC metabolism which have been essentially overlooked until now. In particular, stereochemical aspects should be explored in future studies. As urine was collected in autumn/winter in Northwestern Germany, the 4-MBC metabolites measured probably do not arise from sunscreen products in a narrow sense. They rather may reveal the use of other skin care products containing 4-MBC for UV protection as an added feature.

doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2023.115833