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Int J Androl. 2008 Apr;31(2):131-8. Epub 2007 Dec 7.

Phthalates: metabolism and exposure.

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  • 1Institute and Outpatient Clinic of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany.


In human metabolism studies we found that after oral application of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), diisononyl phthalate (DiNP) and di(2-propylheptyl) phthalate (DPHP), at least 74, 44 and 34%, respectively, are excreted via urine. In contrast to the short chain phthalates, their oxidized products, not the simple monoesters, were found to be the main metabolites. Based on urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations we estimated in 102 German subjects between 6 and 80 years of age median daily intakes (microg/kg/day) of 2.7 for DEHP, 2.1 for di-n-butyl phthalate, 1.5 for diisobutyl phthalate, 0.6 for DiNP, and 0.3 for butylbenzyl phthalate. In general, children have higher exposures compared to adults and seem to have a more effective oxidative metabolism of phthalates. For individual phthalates tolerable daily intake (TDI) values have been deduced. However, in rats some phthalates have been shown to act as endocrine disrupters via a common mechanism of action in a dose-additive manner. Therefore, the concept of a cumulative TDI value may be more appropriate for the consideration of the overall exposure and the potential human health risks resulting from everyday and simultaneous exposure to several phthalates.

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