Monitoring the exposure to ethoxyquin between 2000 and 2021 in urine samples from the German Environmental Specimen Bank

2023, Journals

Pluym, N.; Burkhardt, T.; Rogner, N.; Scherer, G.; Weber, T.; Scherer, M.; Kolossa-Gehring, M.
Environ Int 172 (2023), 107781; online: 4 February 2023

Human Biomonitoring (HBM) of emerging chemicals gained increasing attention within the EU in recent years.

After evaluating the metabolism, we established a new HBM method for ethoxyquin (EQ), a feed additive, which was banned in 2017 due to concerns regarding the possible exposure of the general population to it and its highly toxic precursor p-phenetidine. The method was applied to 250 urine samples from the Environmental Specimen Bank collected between 2000 and 2021.

The major metabolite EQI was quantified in the majority of the study samples illustrating the ubiquitous exposure of the non-occupationally exposed population. A rather constant exposure was observed until 2016 with a significant decline from 2016 to 2021. This drop falls within the EU wide ban of the chemical as a feed additive from June 2017 which led to a gradual removal until its complete suspension in June 2020. The daily intake (DI) was evaluated with respect to the reported derived no-effect level (DNEL) to estimate the potential health risks from EQ exposure. The median DI of 0.0181 microg/kg bw/d corresponds to only 0.01 % of the DNEL. Even the observed maxima up to 13.1 microg/kg bw/d only accounted for 10 % of the DNEL. Nevertheless, the values suggest a general exposure with the risk of higher burden in a low fraction of the population. In regard to the EQ associated intake of the carcinogen and suspected mutagen p-phenetidine, this level of exposure cannot be evaluated as safe.

The recent decrease and the broad exposure substantiate the need for future HBM campaigns in population representative studies to further investigate the observed reductions, potentially find highly exposed subgroups and clarify the impact of the ban as feed additive on EQ exposure.

doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2023.107781