Occurrence and risk assessment of phthalate esters (PAEs) in vegetables and soils of suburban plastic film greenhouses

Sci Total Environ. 2015 Aug 1;523:129-37. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.02.101. Epub 2015 Apr 8.


Phthalate esters (PAEs) are suspected of having adverse effects on human health and have been frequently detected in soils and vegetables. The present study investigated their occurrence and composition in plastic film greenhouse soil-vegetable systems and assessed their potential health risks to farmers exposed to these widespread pollutants. Six priority control phthalates, namely dimethyl phthalate (DMP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP), were determined in 44 plastic film greenhouse vegetables and corresponding soils. Total PAEs ranged from 0.51 to 7.16mgkg(-1) in vegetables and 0.40 to 6.20mgkg(-1) in soils with average concentrations of 2.56 and 2.23mgkg(-1), respectively. DnBP, DEHP and DnOP contributed more than 90% of the total PAEs in both vegetables and soils but the proportions of DnBP and DnOP in vegetables were significantly (p<0.05) higher than in soils. The average concentrations of PAEs in pot herb mustard, celery and lettuce were >3.00mgkg(-1) but were <2.50mgkg(-1) in the corresponding soils. Stem and leaf vegetables accumulated more PAEs. There were no clear relationships between vegetable and soil PAEs. Risk assessment indicates that DnBP, DEHP and DnOP exhibited elevated non-cancer risk with values of 0.039, 0.338 and 0.038, respectively. The carcinogenic risk of DEHP was about 3.94×10(-5) to farmers working in plastic film greenhouses. Health risks were mainly by exposure through vegetable consumption and soil ingestion.

Keywords: Greenhouse soils; Phthalates; Plastic film; Risk assessment; Vegetables.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Dibutyl Phthalate
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Esters / analysis*
  • Phthalic Acids / analysis*
  • Plasticizers / analysis
  • Plastics
  • Risk Assessment
  • Soil / chemistry*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Vegetables


  • Esters
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Plasticizers
  • Plastics
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • dimethyl phthalate
  • Dibutyl Phthalate
  • phthalic acid
  • di-n-octyl phthalate
  • diethyl phthalate
  • butylbenzyl phthalate