Effects and Mechanisms of Phthalates' Action on Reproductive Processes and Reproductive Health: A Literature Review

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 18;17(18):6811. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17186811.


The production of plastic products, which requires phthalate plasticizers, has resulted in the problems for human health, especially that of reproductive health. Phthalate exposure can induce reproductive disorders at various regulatory levels. The aim of this review was to compile the evidence concerning the association between phthalates and reproductive diseases, phthalates-induced reproductive disorders, and their possible endocrine and intracellular mechanisms. Phthalates may induce alterations in puberty, the development of testicular dysgenesis syndrome, cancer, and fertility disorders in both males and females. At the hormonal level, phthalates can modify the release of hypothalamic, pituitary, and peripheral hormones. At the intracellular level, phthalates can interfere with nuclear receptors, membrane receptors, intracellular signaling pathways, and modulate gene expression associated with reproduction. To understand and to treat the adverse effects of phthalates on human health, it is essential to expand the current knowledge concerning their mechanism of action in the organism.

Keywords: endocrine disruptor; hormone; nuclear receptor; phthalate; reproductive system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Pollutants* / toxicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phthalic Acids* / toxicity
  • Plasticizers
  • Reproductive Health*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Plasticizers
  • phthalic acid