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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e55005. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055005. Epub 2013 Jan 30.

Intake of phthalate-tainted foods alters thyroid functions in Taiwanese children.

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Department of Public Health, College of Health Sciences, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.



On April-May, 2011, two Taiwan chemical companies were found to have intentionally added phthalates, Di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and/or Di-isononyl phthalate, as a substitute of emulsifier to many foodstuffs. This study aimed to investigate whether exposure to these foods altered endocrine functions in children aged ≤10 years and, if so, whether those changes could be reversed by stopping exposure.


One Phthalates Clinic for Children was established in southern Taiwan between May 31 and June 17, 2011. All eligible children had their exposure information, blood and/or urine specimens collected. Endocrine functions were assessed in serum. The exposure groups were categorized into three (High, >500 ppm, Low, 1-500 ppm, and No, <1 ppm of DEHP). After six months, some children were followed up for the selected endocrine hormones.


Sixty children were eligible in this study; all were Tanner stage 1 with no pubic hair. Compared to non-exposed group, both high and low exposure groups had significantly lower serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels (P = 0.001 and 0.024). At six months follow-up, serum triiodothyronine (T3) levels was significantly changed (P = 0.034) in high exposure group (n = 13). For serum estradiol (E2), the detectable rate (≥8 pg/mL) decreased from 76.9% (10/13) to 30.8% (4/13) (P = 0.070).


This study shows that serum TSH levels can be altered when children were exposed to high concentrations of phthalate-tainted foodstuffs. Serum E2 and T3 may be partially recovered after stopping exposure.

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