Background: There is concern over potential neurobehavioral effects of prenatal phthalate exposures, but available data are inconsistent.
Objectives: We examined associations between prenatal urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites and neurobehavioral scores among children.
Methods: We measured phthalate metabolite concentrations in urine samples from 153 pregnant participants in the Study for Future Families, a multicenter cohort study. Mothers completed the Child Behavior Checklist when the children were 6-10 years of age. We estimated overall and sex-specific associations between phthalate concentrations and behavior using adjusted multiple regression interaction models.
Results: In boys, concentrations of monoisobutyl phthalate were associated with higher scores for inattention (β = 0.27; 95% CI: 0.04, 0.50), rule-breaking behavior (β = 0.20; 95% CI: 0.01, 0.38), aggression (β = 0.34; 95% CI: 0.09, 0.59), and conduct problems (β = 0.39; 95% CI: 0.20, 0.58), whereas the molar sum of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate metabolites was associated with higher scores for somatic problems (β = 0.15; 95% CI: 0.03, 0.28). Higher monobenzyl phthalate concentrations were associated with higher scores for oppositional behavior (β = 0.16; 95% CI: 0.01, 0.32) and conduct problems (β = 0.21; 95% CI: 0.06, 0.37) in boys, but with reduced anxiety scores in girls (β = -0.20; 95% CI: -0.39, -0.01). In general, the associations reported above were close to the null among girls. Model coefficients represent the difference in the square root-transformed outcome score associated with a 1-unit increase in log-transformed metabolites.
Conclusions: Our results suggest associations between exposure to certain phthalates in late pregnancy and behavioral problems in boys. Given the few studies on this topic and methodological and population differences among studies, additional research is warranted.