Original Article

Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology (2013) 23, 197–206; doi:10.1038/jes.2012.105; published online 21 November 2012

Women’s exposure to phthalates in relation to use of personal care products

Lauren E Parlett1,2, Antonia M. Calafat3 and Shanna H Swan2,4

  1. 1Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY, USA
  2. 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY, USA
  3. 3Division of Laboratory Sciences, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
  4. 4Department of Preventive Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA

Correspondence: Lauren E. Parlett, Office of Research Administration, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Box 668, Rochester, NY 14642, USA. Tel.: +1 585 273 3874. Fax: +1 585 276 2171. E-mail: Lauren_Parlett@urmc.rochester.edu

Received 17 February 2012; Revised 15 June 2012; Accepted 1 October 2012
Advance online publication 21 November 2012



Several phthalates, particularly diethyl phthalate (DEP) and di-n-butyl phthalate, can be used in personal care products (PCPs) to fix fragrance and hold color. We investigated associations between women’s reported use of PCPs within the 24h before urine collection and concentrations of several urinary phthalate metabolites. Between 2002 and 2005, 337 women provided spot urine samples and answered questions regarding their use of 13 PCPs at a follow-up visit 3–36 months after pregnancy. We examined associations between urinary concentrations of several phthalate metabolites and use of PCPs using linear regression. Use of individual PCPs ranged from 7% (nail polish) to 91% (deodorant). After adjusting for age, education, and urinary creatinine, women reporting use of perfume had 2.92 times higher (95% CI: 2.20–3.89) concentration of monoethyl phthalate (MEP; the primary metabolite of DEP) than other women. Other PCPs that were significantly associated with MEP concentrations included: hair spray, nail polish, and deodorant. MEP concentrations increased with the number of PCPs used. PCP use was widespread in this group of recently pregnant women. Women’s use of PCPs, particularly of perfumes and fragranced products, was positively associated with urinary concentration of multiple phthalate metabolites.


phthalates; epidemiology; personal exposure


BzBP, benzylbutyl phthalate; DiBP, di-isobutyl phthalate; DnBP, di-n-butyl phthalate; DEHP, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate; DEP, diethyl phthalate; DMP, dimethyl phthalate; DnOP, di-n-octyl phthalate; MCPP, mono(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate; MEP, monoethyl phthalate; MiBP, mono-isobutyl phthalate; MEHHP, mono(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate; MEHP, mono(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate; MEOHP, mono(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate; MnBP, mono-n-butyl phthalate; MzBP, monobenzyl phthalate; PCP, personal care product; SFF, Study for Future Families; SFFII, Study for Future Families, phase II