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Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2013 Nov;216(6):672-81. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2012.12.002. Epub 2013 Jan 18.

Identifying sources of phthalate exposure with human biomonitoring: results of a 48h fasting study with urine collection and personal activity patterns.

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Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine of the German Social Accident Insurance, Institute of the Ruhr-University Bochum (IPA), Bürkle-de-la-Camp-Platz 1, 44789 Bochum, Germany. Electronic address:


Human biomonitoring studies measuring phthalate metabolites in urine have shown widespread exposure to phthalates in the general population. Diet is thought to be a principle route of exposure to many phthalates. Therefore, we studied urinary phthalate metabolite patterns over a period of strict fasting and additionally recorded personal activity patterns with a diary to investigate non-dietary routes of exposure. Five individuals (3 female, 2 male, 27-47 years of age) fasted on glass-bottled water only over a 48-h period. All urine void events were captured in full, and measured for metabolites of the high molecular weight (HMW) di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) and di-isodecyl phthalate (DiDP), and the low molecular weight (LMW) di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP), di-iso-butyl phthalate (DiBP), butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), and diethyl phthalate (DEP). In all, 21 metabolites were measured in a total of 118 urine events, including events before and after the fasting period. At the onset of the study all phthalate metabolite concentrations were consistent with levels found in previous general population studies. Metabolites of the HMW phthalates (DEHP, DiNP and DiDP) showed a rapid decline to levels 5-10 times lower than initial levels within 24h of the fast and remained low thereafter. After food consumption resumed, levels rose again. By contrast, metabolites of the LMW phthalates including DMP, DEP, BBzP, DnBP and DiBP showed a cyclical pattern of rising and declining concentrations suggestive of ongoing non-food exposures. Furthermore, metabolites of most of the LMW phthalates (BBzP, DnBP and DiBP) tracked each other remarkably well, suggesting concurrent exposures. Diary entries could not help explain exposure sources for these phthalates, with one exception: rises in MEP concentrations around males' showers suggest personal care products as a major source of DEP. Exposure to HMW phthalates in this cohort appears to be driven by dietary intake, while non-dietary routes such as use of personal care products and ubiquitous sources including dust and indoor air appear to explain exposure to LMW phthalates.


Biomonitoring; Dietary and non-dietary exposure; Phthalates; Sources; Urinary metabolites

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