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Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Oct;123(10):928-34. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1409151. Epub 2015 Apr 7.

Transdermal Uptake of Diethyl Phthalate and Di(n-butyl) Phthalate Directly from Air: Experimental Verification.

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Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA.



Fundamental considerations indicate that, for certain phthalate esters, dermal absorption from air is an uptake pathway that is comparable to or greater than inhalation. Yet this pathway has not been experimentally evaluated and has been largely overlooked when assessing uptake of phthalate esters.


This study investigated transdermal uptake, directly from air, of diethyl phthalate (DEP) and di(n-butyl) phthalate (DnBP) in humans.


In a series of experiments, six human participants were exposed for 6 hr in a chamber containing deliberately elevated air concentrations of DEP and DnBP. The participants either wore a hood and breathed air with phthalate concentrations substantially below those in the chamber or did not wear a hood and breathed chamber air. All urinations were collected from initiation of exposure until 54 hr later. Metabolites of DEP and DnBP were measured in these samples and extrapolated to parent phthalate intakes, corrected for background and hood air exposures.


For DEP, the median dermal uptake directly from air was 4.0 μg/(μg/m(3) in air) compared with an inhalation intake of 3.8 μg/(μg/m(3) in air). For DnBP, the median dermal uptake from air was 3.1 μg/(μg/m(3) in air) compared with an inhalation intake of 3.9 μg/(μg/m(3) in air).


This study shows that dermal uptake directly from air can be a meaningful exposure pathway for DEP and DnBP. For other semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs) whose molecular weight and lipid/air partition coefficient are in the appropriate range, direct absorption from air is also anticipated to be significant.

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