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Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Sep 11;125(9):097008. doi: 10.1289/EHP1022.

Early-Life Phthalate Exposure and Adiposity at 8 Years of Age.

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Department of Epidemiology, Brown University School of Public Health , Providence, Rhode Island, USA.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Environmental Health , Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Department of Environmental Health, University of Cincinnati , Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.
Faculty of Health and Sciences, Simon Fraser University , Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
Child and Family Research Institute , BC Children's and Women's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center , Department of Pediatrics, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.



Early-life phthalate exposure may influence child adiposity, but prior studies have not determined if there are periods of enhanced vulnerability to phthalates.


To examine the relationship between child adiposity at 8 y of age and repeated urinary biomarkers of phthalate exposure from gestation through childhood to determine if there are distinct periods of vulnerability.


In 219 mother-child pairs from Cincinnati, Ohio, we quantified nine urinary phthalate metabolites up to two times prenatally and six times from 1-8 y of age. We measured child body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and percent body fat at 8 y of age. To identify periods of vulnerability, we used two statistical methods to estimate phthalate-adiposity associations at each visit, test differences in phthalate-adiposity associations across visits, and model trajectories of phthalate concentrations for children at different levels of adiposity.


Prenatal phthalate concentrations were not associated with excess child adiposity. Monobenzyl phthalate (MBzP) concentrations during pregnancy and childhood were inversely associated with adiposity. The associations of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (∑DEHP) metabolites and monoethyl phthalate (MEP) with child adiposity depended on the timing of exposure. A 10-fold increase in ∑DEHP at 1 and 5 y was associated with a 2.7% decrease [95% confidence interval (CI): -4.8, -0.5] and 2.9% increase (95% CI: 0.3, 5.5) in body fat, respectively. MEP concentrations at 5 and 8 y of age were associated with higher child adiposity, but earlier childhood concentrations were not.


In this cohort, we did not find evidence of an obesogenic effect of prenatal phthalate exposure. Positive associations between postnatal MEP and ∑DEHP concentrations depended on the timing of exposure.

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