Background: Experimental and observational studies have reported biological consequences of phthalate exposure relevant to neurodevelopment.
Objective: Our goal was to examine the association of prenatal phthalate exposure with behavior and executive functioning at 4-9 years of age.
Methods: The Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Study enrolled a multiethnic prenatal population in New York City between 1998 and 2002 (n = 404). Third-trimester maternal urines were collected and analyzed for phthalate metabolites. Children (n = 188, n = 365 visits) were assessed for cognitive and behavioral development between the ages of 4 and 9 years.
Results: In multivariate adjusted models, increased loge concentrations of low molecular weight (LMW) phthalate metabolites were associated with poorer scores on the aggression [beta = 1.24; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.15- 2.34], conduct problems (beta = 2.40; 95% CI, 1.34-3.46), attention problems (beta = 1.29; 95% CI, 0.16- 2.41), and depression (beta = 1.18; 95% CI, 0.11-2.24) clinical scales; and externalizing problems (beta = 1.75; 95% CI, 0.61-2.88) and behavioral symptom index (beta = 1.55; 95% CI, 0.39-2.71) composite scales. Increased loge concentrations of LMW phthalates were also associated with poorer scores on the global executive composite index (beta = 1.23; 95% CI, 0.09-2.36) and the emotional control scale (beta = 1.33; 95% CI, 0.18- 2.49).
Conclusion: Behavioral domains adversely associated with prenatal exposure to LMW phthalates in our study are commonly found to be affected in children clinically diagnosed with conduct or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders.