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Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Apr;124(4):514-20. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1408750. Epub 2015 Jun 12.

Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates and Childhood Body Size in an Urban Cohort.

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Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Department of Pediatrics, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.



Phthalate exposures are hypothesized to increase obesity; however, prior research has been largely cross-sectional.


We evaluated associations between prenatal phthalate exposures and body mass index (BMI) at child ages 5 and 7 years.


Nine metabolites of six phthalates-di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), di-n-octyl-, di-iso-butyl-, di-n-butyl-, butylbenzyl-, and diethyl phthalates-were measured in spot urine samples collected from pregnant African-American and Dominican women during their third trimester, and from their children at ages 3 and 5 years. To reduce multiple comparison issues, we initially used principal component analysis (PCA) to identify major patterns of natural log (ln)-transformed metabolite concentrations. Height and weight were assessed at ages 5 and 7 years, and fat mass and waist circumference at age 7. Linearized generalized estimating equation analyses related maternal component scores to child anthropometric outcomes at ages 5 (n = 326) and 7 (n = 330) years.


PCA identified a DEHP component and a non-DEHP component. In boys, higher maternal non-DEHP, but not DEHP, component scores were associated with lower BMI z-score (β = -0.30; 95% CI: -0.50, -0.10, n = 156), lower fat percentage (β = -1.62; 95% CI: -2.91, -0.34, n = 142), and smaller waist circumference (β = -2.02; 95% CI: -3.71, -0.32, n = 124). No significant associations with anthropometric outcomes were seen in girls (for BMI z-score, β = 0.07; 95% CI: -0.18, 0.31, n = 181). Interactions between sex and non-DEHP component association with outcomes were statistically significant (p < 0.01).


Contrary to hypotheses, prenatal non-DEHP phthalate exposures were associated with lower BMI z-score, waist circumference, and fat mass in boys during early childhood.


Maresca MM, Hoepner LA, Hassoun A, Oberfield SE, Mooney SJ, Calafat AM, Ramirez J, Freyer G, Perera FP, Whyatt RM, Rundle AG. 2016. Prenatal exposure to phthalates and childhood body size in an urban cohort. Environ Health Perspect 124:514-520;

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