Phthalates and the diets of U.S. children and adolescents

Environ Res. 2013 Oct:126:84-90. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2013.07.007. Epub 2013 Sep 13.


Background: Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) is an ester of phthalic acid commonly found in processed foods. DEHP may contribute to obesity and insulin resistance in children and adolescents, yet dietary exposures have been not been studied in this vulnerable subpopulation.

Objective: To assess diet and its relation to urinary phthalates in a nationally representative sample of US children and adolescents.

Design: Cross-sectional analysis of 24-h dietary recall and urinary phthalate metabolites from 2743 6-19 year olds participating in the 2003-8 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Regression analyses examined relationships of food consumption with log-transformed metabolite concentrations, examined as low-molecular weight, high molecular weight and di-2-ethylhexylphthalate categories, controlling for urinary creatinine, age group, body mass index category, race/ethnicity, caloric intake and gender.

Results: We identified a -0.04% (95% CI: -0.08, -0.01) increment in di-2-ethylhexylphthalate metabolite concentration/additional gram fruit consumption, a +0.01% increment/additional calorie dietary intake (95% CI: +0.003, +0.02), and a +0.09% (95% CI: +0.02, +0.17) increment/additional gram meat/poultry/fish consumption. Soy consumption (-0.40% increment/additional gram consumed, 95% CI: -0.66, -0.14) was inversely associated with di-2-ethylhexylphthalate, while poultry (+0.23% increment/additional gram consumed, 95% CI: +0.12, +0.35) was positively associated. Findings were robust to examination of metabolite concentrations per unit body mass index and weight, and inclusion of fasting time.

Conclusions: Diet contributes to urinary phthalate concentrations in children and adolescents. Further study is needed to examine the implications of di-2-ethylhexylphthalate exposure, especially earlier in life, when more permanent metabolic changes may occur.

Keywords: Children; Diet; Insulin resistance; MBP; MBzP; MCPP; MECPP; MEHHP; MEHP; MEOHP; MEP; MiBP; Obesity; Phthalates; SD; mono-(2-ethyl-5-carboxypentyl) phthalate; mono-(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate; mono-(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate; mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate; mono-(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate; mono-ethyl phthalate; mono-isobutyl phthalate; mono-n-butyl-phthalate; monobenzylphthalate; standard deviation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Phthalic Acids / urine*
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Phthalic Acids
  • phthalic acid