Urinary concentrations of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate metabolites and serum reproductive hormones: pooled analysis of fertile and infertile men

J Androl. 2012 May-Jun;33(3):488-98. doi: 10.2164/jandrol.111.013557. Epub 2011 May 19.


Urinary concentrations of metabolites of the anti-androgenic xenobiotic di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) were previously shown to be weakly associated with serum levels of several hormones in 2 disparate US populations: partners of pregnant women participating in the Study for Future Families and partners in infertile couples from Massachusetts General Hospital infertility clinic. The observed associations between phthalate metabolites and reproductive hormones were robust and insensitive to the characteristics of the subpopulation or the laboratory in which the hormones were measured, despite the fact that these 2 populations span a range of fertility, urinary phthalate metabolites, and reproductive hormone levels. We therefore examined associations between urinary metabolites of DEHP and reproductive hormones-follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, testosterone (T), inhibin B, and estradiol (E(2))-and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in the pooled population. The magnitude of the associations seen were similar to those reported for each population separately, but effect estimates were more precise because of the increased sample size and the greater range of phthalate metabolite concentrations and hormone levels. Urinary concentrations of 3 metabolites of DEHP [mono(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP), mono(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate (MEHHP), and mono(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate (MEOHP)] were inversely associated with the free androgen index (FAI = T/SHBG) and calculated free testosterone. Urinary concentrations of MEHHP and MEOHP were positively associated with SHBG, and MEHP was inversely associated with E(2). No other phthalate metabolites were associated with serum hormones, consistent with results in each population. Our results in this diverse population suggest that DEHP exposure is robustly associated with some male sex steroid hormones.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / metabolism*
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / urine*
  • Fertility
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / blood
  • Infertility, Male / urine*
  • Inhibins / blood
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / analysis
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • inhibin B
  • Testosterone
  • Inhibins
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate