Mono(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate exhibits genotoxic effects in human lymphocytes and mucosal cells of the upper aerodigestive tract in the comet assay

Toxicol Lett. 2004 Mar 14;148(1-2):83-90. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2003.12.013.


Phthalic acid esters such as di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) are widely used as plasticizers in PVC products manufactured for commercial, medical, and consumer purposes. Humans are exposed to phthalates originating, e.g., from blood storage bags, tubing materials, and from food-wrapping. While xenoestrogenic and chronic toxic effects of phthalates have been extensively discussed, there is little data on genotoxic effects in human cells. The alkaline comet assay was used to detect single-strand breaks and alkali labile sites of DNA after incubation of human nasal mucosal cells (n = 11) and peripheral lymphocytes (n = 11) with mono(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (MEHP), the principal hydrolysis product of DEHP. MEHP showed a dose-dependent enhancement of DNA migration both in human mucosal cells and in lymphocytes. This effect indicates a genotoxic potential of MEHP in human mucosal cells. It confirms previous data obtained on the effect of MEHP on lymphocytes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA Damage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Nasal Mucosa / cytology
  • Nasal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Phthalic Acids / toxicity*


  • Phthalic Acids
  • mono(2-methoxyethyl) phthalate