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Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Sep;114(9):1424-31.

Exposure to phthalates in neonatal intensive care unit infants: urinary concentrations of monoesters and oxidative metabolites.

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Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



We previously demonstrated that among 54 infants in neonatal intensive care units, exposure to polyvinyl chloride plastic medical devices containing the plasticizer di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is associated with urinary concentrations of mono(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP) , a DEHP metabolite. In this follow-up report, we studied the neonates' exposure to DEHP-containing devices in relation to urinary concentrations of two other DEHP metabolites, and to urinary concentrations of metabolites of dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and benzylbutyl phthalate (BzBP) , phthalates found in construction materials and personal care products.


A priori, we classified the intensiveness of these 54 infants' exposure to DEHP-containing medical products. We measured three metabolites of DEHP in infants' urine: MEHP and two of its oxidative metabolites, mono(2-ethyl-5-hydroxylhexyl) phthalate (MEHHP) and mono(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate (MEOHP) . We also measured monobutyl phthalate (MBP) , a metabolite of DBP, and monobenzyl phthalate (MBzP), a metabolite of BzBP.


Intensiveness of DEHP-containing product use was monotonically associated with all three DEHP metabolites. Urinary concentrations of MEHHP and MEOHP among infants in the high-DEHP-intensiveness group were 13-14 times the concentrations among infants in the low-intensiveness group (p</= 0.007). Concentrations of MBP were somewhat higher in the medium- and high-DEHP-intensiveness group; MBzP did not vary by product use group. Incorporating all phthalate data into a structural equation model confirmed the specific monotonic association between intensiveness of product use and biologic measures of DEHP.


Inclusion of the oxidative metabolites MEHHP and MEOHP strengthened the association between intensiveness of product use and biologic indices of DEHP exposure over that observed with MEHP alone.

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