Since a 2011 incident involving phthalate-tainted food, Taiwanese people have become concerned with food quality, and they are still being exposed to certain levels of phthalates. However, no nationwide human biomonitoring survey had been conducted to gather information on levels or reference values (RVs) of phthalates in the Taiwanese population. We aimed to establish the urinary levels and RVs of phthalate metabolites and identify exposure characteristics among Taiwan's population. We enrolled 1857 participants 7 years of age and older from the Taiwan Environmental Survey for Toxicants (TESTs) conducted during 2013-2016. Levels of 11 phthalate metabolites in each participant's urine samples were determined using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. For all phthalate metabolites except for mono-methyl phthalate (MMP), mono-ethyl phthalate (MEP), and mono-ethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP), urinary median levels were significantly higher in the 7-17-year old group than in the ≧18-year-old group. For most phthalate metabolites and in the general population, the geometric mean decreased with increasing age. Median levels of MEP (19.55 μg/L), mono-benzyl phthalate (MBzP) (2.11 μg/L), mono-(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate (MEHHP) (22.82 μg/L), mono-(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate (MEOHP) (16.08 μg/L), ΣDibutyl phthalate metabolites (ΣDBPm) (0.17 nmol/mL), Σdi-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate metabolites (ΣDEHPm) (0.29 nmol/mL) were higher in participants from central Taiwan than those from other areas. The median level of DBP (ΣDBPm: 0.20 nmol/mL) was significantly higher in participants from harbor areas than those from other urbanization groups. The RV of the 95 percentile (P95) for phthalate metabolites in the 7-17/≧18-year-old groups were 185.95/208.19 μg/L for MMP, 198.46/265.81 μg/L for MEP, 119.85/69.99 μg/L for mono-isononyl phthalate (MiBP), 165.19/204.32 μg/L for Mono-n-butyl phthalate (MnBP), 15.61/11.73 μg/L for MBzP, 62.09/59.23 μg/L for MEHP, 149.70/69.66 μg/L for MEHHP, 112.06/35.07 μg/L for MEOHP, 195.20/93.83 μg/L for mono-(2-ethyl-5-carboxypentyl) phthalate (MECPP), 45.66/27.69 μg/L for mono-(2-carboxymethylhexyl) phthalate (MCMHP), and 9.09/12.13 μg/L for mono-iso-nonyl phthalate (MiNP). We concluded that phthalate exposure of the general population in Taiwan varies by sex, age, region, and urbanization level. Exposure by the 7-17-year-old group to DMP, DBP, and DEHP in Taiwan remains higher than that of youth from other countries. RV of phthalate metabolites in Taiwan were established in the current study.
Keywords: General population; Human biomonitoring; Phthalate metabolites; Reference values; Taiwan; Urine.
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