Racial and ethnic variations in phthalate metabolite concentration changes across full-term pregnancies

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2017 Mar;27(2):160-166. doi: 10.1038/jes.2016.2. Epub 2016 Feb 10.


Higher concentrations of certain phthalate metabolites are associated with adverse reproductive and pregnancy outcomes, as well as poor infant/child health outcomes. In non-pregnant populations, phthalate metabolite concentrations vary by race/ethnicity. Few studies have documented racial/ethnic differences between phthalate metabolite concentrations at multiple time points across the full-course of pregnancy. The objective of the study was to characterize the change in phthalate metabolite concentrations by race/ethnicity across multiple pregnancy time points. Women were participants in a prospectively collected pregnancy cohort who delivered at term (≥37 weeks) and had available urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations for ≥3 time points across full-term pregnancies (n=350 women). We assessed urinary concentrations of eight phthalate metabolites that were log-transformed and specific gravity-adjusted. We evaluated the potential racial/ethnic differences in phthalate metabolite concentrations at baseline (median 10 weeks gestation) using ANOVA and across pregnancy using linear mixed models to calculate the percent change and 95% confidence intervals adjusted for sociodemographic and lifestyle factors. Almost 30% of the population were non-Hispanic black or Hispanic. With the exception of mono-(3-carboxypropyl) (MCPP) and di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) metabolites, baseline levels of phthalate metabolites were significantly higher in non-whites (P<0.05). When evaluating patterns by race/ethnicity, mono-ethyl phthalate (MEP) and MCPP had significant percent changes across pregnancy. MEP was higher in Hispanics at baseline and decreased in mid-pregnancy but increased in late pregnancy for non-Hispanic blacks. MCPP was substantially higher in non-Hispanic blacks at baseline but decreased later in pregnancy. Across pregnancy, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women had higher concentrations of certain phthalate metabolites. These differences may have implications for racial/ethnic differences in adverse pregnancy and child health outcomes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Boston
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / urine*
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Phthalic Acids / urine*
  • Pregnancy / urine
  • Pregnancy Trimesters / urine*
  • Pregnant Women
  • Prospective Studies
  • Racial Groups
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Phthalic Acids