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



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 24 h 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.

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benzylbutyl phthalate


di-isobutyl phthalate


di-n-butyl phthalate


di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate


diethyl phthalate


dimethyl phthalate


di-n-octyl phthalate


mono(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate


monoethyl phthalate


mono-isobutyl phthalate


mono(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate


mono(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate


mono(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate


mono-n-butyl phthalate


monobenzyl phthalate


personal care product


Study for Future Families


Study for Future Families, phase II


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This study was supported by grants from the US Environmental Protection Agency; National Institutes of Health Grants R01-ES09916 to the University of Missouri, MO1-RR00400 to the University of Minnesota, and MO1-RR0425 to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center; Grant 18018278 from the State of Iowa to the University of Iowa and 1RC2ES018736-02 to the University of Rochester. We gratefully acknowledge the technical assistance of Manori Silva, Jack Reidy, Ella Samandar, Tao Jia, and Jim Preau (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA) in measuring the urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the CDC.

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Correspondence to Lauren E Parlett.

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Parlett, L., Calafat, A. & Swan, S. Women’s exposure to phthalates in relation to use of personal care products. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 23, 197–206 (2013).

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  • phthalates
  • epidemiology
  • personal exposure

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