Phthalates - widespread occurrence and the effect on male gametes. Part 2. The effects of phthalates on male gametes and on the offspring

Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2016;67(3):209-21.


The general exposure to endocrine disruptors, including phthalates, is considered as one of the reason diminished sperm count and deteriorated sperm quality, which may lead to infertility and higher incidence of congenital malformations of the genital tract. This article describes the effects of selected phthalates di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP); butylbenzyl phthalate (BBP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) on the male gametes, reproduction and the offspring of exposed animals. Results of several papers in vitro showed that above mentioned phthalates are weakly estrogenic, whereas in vivo studies showed that they have rather antiandrogenic abilities. Review of papers regarding to laboratory animals confirmed that phthalates cause diminished sperm count, increased frequency of abnormal spermatozoa and DNA damage in germ cells, especially after chronic exposure and in case exposure of immature animals. Phthalates may induce in male gametes mutations leading to increased pre- and postnatal mortality of the offspring and to incidence of congenital malformations, growth retardation, delay in sexual development, shortening of anogenital distance in males, disturbances in sex ratio and diminished quality of semen in F1 generation. The sensitivity on mammalian life stages on phthalates seems to be as follows: fetal > peripubertal > adult. The human studies provided limited evidence of an association between phthalate exposure and semen quality. Concentration of phthalates in semen of men at the level from 0.08 to 1.32 mg/kg was related to declined semen quality and infertility. Majority of human data showed the connection of increased level of phthalates in urine and sperm quality, however on the basis results of other studies, the impact of environmental exposure on sperm parameters seems to be rather small.

Key words: phthalates, sperm count and quality, pre- and perinatal exposure, mammalian and human effects.

MeSH terms

  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollution / adverse effects
  • Food Contamination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Phthalic Acids / adverse effects*
  • Phthalic Acids / analysis
  • Sperm Motility / drug effects


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Phthalic Acids
  • phthalic acid
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate