Phthalates: toxicology and exposure

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2007 Oct;210(5):623-34. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2007.07.011. Epub 2007 Sep 21.


Phthalates are used as plasticizers in PVC plastics. As the phthalate plasticizers are not chemically bound to PVC, they can leach, migrate or evaporate into indoor air and atmosphere, foodstuff, other materials, etc. Consumer products containing phthalates can result in human exposure through direct contact and use, indirectly through leaching into other products, or general environmental contamination. Humans are exposed through ingestion, inhalation, and dermal exposure during their whole lifetime, including intrauterine development. This paper presents an overview on current risk assessments done by expert panels as well as on exposure assessment data, based on ambient and on current human biomonitoring results. Some phthalates are reproductive and developmental toxicants in animals and suspected endocrine disruptors in humans. Exposure assessment via modelling ambient data give hints that the exposure of children to phthalates exceeds that in adults. Current human biomonitoring data prove that the tolerable intake of children is exceeded to a considerable degree, in some instances up to 20-fold. Very high exposures to phthalates can occur via medical treatment, i.e. via use of medical devices containing DEHP or medicaments containing DBP phthalate in their coating. Because of their chemical properties exposure to phthalates does not result in bioaccumulation. However, health concern is raised regarding the developmental and/or reproductive toxicity of phthalates, even in environmental concentrations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Equipment and Supplies / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Phthalic Acids / toxicity*
  • Phthalic Acids / urine
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tablets, Enteric-Coated / adverse effects


  • Phthalic Acids
  • Tablets, Enteric-Coated
  • phthalic acid