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Your Environment. Your Health.

Obesity and Childhood Phthalate Exposure

Susan L. Teitelbaum, Ph.D., Maida P. Galvez, M.D., Mary S. Wolff, Ph.D., Barbara L. Brenner, Dr.P.H.
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
NIEHS Grants U01ES012771, K01ES012645, P01ES009584


NIEHS grantees have published research that shows an association between obesity and childhood exposure to phthalates. These man-made endocrine disruptors are commonly used in plastic flooring and wall coverings, food processing materials, medical devices, and personal care products.


The researchers measured phthalate concentrations in the urine of 387 African-American and Hispanic children in New York City who were between 6 and 8 years old when enrolled in the study. One year later they measured the children’s body size characteristics, including body mass index (BMI), height, and waist circumference. The urine test showed that more than 97 percent of study participants had been exposed to phthalates.


The researchers found that increased body size in overweight children correlated with higher levels of exposure to monoethyl phthalate and to the sum of the low molecular-weight phthalates studied. More research is needed to definitively determine whether phthalate exposure causes increases in body size, but the work does provide evidence that phthalates could contribute to childhood obesity.


Citation: Teitelbaum SL, Mervish N, Moshier EL, Vangeepuram N, Galvez MP, Calafat AM, Silva MJ, Brenner BL, Wolff MS. 2012. Associations between phthalate metabolite urinary concentrations and body size measures in New York City children. Environ Res 112:186-193.

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