Assessment of estrogenic compounds in paperboard for dry food packaging with the ERE-CALUX bioassay

Tara Vandermarken, Imke Boonen, Celia Gryspeirt, Kim Croes, Kathy Van Den Houwe, Michael Denison, Yue Gao, Els Van Hoeck, Marc Elskens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Paperboard used as packaging, a non-inert material, can transfer chemicals into food. Over the years, endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), such as NonylPhenols (NPs), BisPhenol A (BPA) and phthalates have been shown to migrate from packaging materials into food. Due to chronic exposure and mixture effects of these EDCs, they could cause health effects even at very low doses. Many EDCs are still unknown and many more are still unregulated. The ERE-CALUX bioassay was used as a bioanalytical tool to investigate estrogenic activities of paperboard food packaging and its characteristics, including recycling rate and printing ink. A “worst case” scenario with full extraction is compared to a dry food migration experiment. By measuring an overall estrogenic activity, known and unknown estrogenic chemicals and mixture effects are taken into account and the data are compared to molecule specific analysis. Estrogenic activities ranged from 682 ± 66 pg E2 eq./dm2 to 3250 ± 400 pg E2 eq./dm2 for “worst case” extraction and from 347 ± 30 pg E2 eq./dm2 to 1350 ± 70 pg E2 eq./dm2 for migration experiments. A two-factor ANOVA revealed a relationship between estrogenic activity and the recycling rate of the paperboard, but no significant difference with printing ink was observed for these paperboard samples. Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) and 1,2-cyclohexane dicarboxylic acid diisononyl ester (DINCH) were determined in all extraction and migrations experiment samples. A Spearman rank correlation analysis showed a relationship between the estrogenic activity and the total phthalates as well as with each compound individually.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-106
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Estrogens
  • FCM
  • Food packaging
  • Paperboard
  • Phthalates


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