Trends in characteristics of 24-h urine samples and their relevance for human biomonitoring studies – 20 years of experience in the German Environmental Specimen Bank
Lermen, Dominik; Bartel-Steinbach, Martina; Gwinner, Frederik; Conrad, André; Weber, Till; von Briesen, Hagen; Kolossa-Gehring, Marike
International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health (2019), online 26 April 2019
To document trends in human exposure to environmental pollutants, the German Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB) has been routinely collecting and archiving 24-h urine samples from young adults at four sampling sites in Germany on an annual basis. For the purpose of normalizing measured analyte concentrations, urinary creatinine (UC), specific gravity (SG), conductivity (CON), and total urine volume (UVtot) of 24-h urine samples have also been recorded. These parameters are however susceptible to variation over time, as well as within/among participants and normalization against them can thus affect the interpretation of data regarding exposure to environmental pollutants. To evaluate the influence of normalization against these parameters, we first sought to determine variations of these parameters with regard to differences between sexes and trends over time. We analysed data from 8619 urine samples collected from 1997 to 2016. We observed an inverse relation between UVtot and UC, SG, and CON. We also found differences between sexes for UC, SG and CON, but not UVtot. UC, SG, and CON showed significant decreasing trends over time in both sexes. In contrast, a significant increase of over 30% in UVtot, independent of participant age and BMI, was revealed. This increase in UVtot and the concomitant sample dilution is likely to have an impact on measured analyte concentrations in 24-h urine samples. Hence, normalization of urinary concentrations is warranted when interpreting time trends of human exposure. Next, urinary calcium (Ca2+) concentrations of ESB participants were used to demonstrate the effects of normalization against each of the four urine parameters. From 1997 to 2016, measured Ca2+ concentrations showed a statistically significant but scientifically implausible decrease. Normalization of Ca2+ concentrations against UVtot (by calculating the total daily excretion), UC, or CON, but not SG, eliminated this decrease. Consistent with previous work, Ca2+ concentrations in urine and total daily Ca2+ excretion were higher for males than females. Normalization against UC, SG, or CON, however, attenuated this difference. Thus, to avoid misinterpretation in trend analysis and sex-specific excretion in 24-h urine samples, the calculation of the total daily excretion is recommended.