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Phthalates and critically ill neonates: device-related exposures and non-endocrine toxic risks




To assess the types and magnitudes of non-endocrine toxic risks to neonates associated with medical device-related exposures to di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP).

Study design:

Dose-response thresholds for DEHP toxicities were determined from published data, as were the magnitudes of DEHP exposures resulting from neonatal contact with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) devices. Standard methods of risk assessment were used to determine safe levels of DEHP exposure in neonates, and hazard quotients were calculated for devices individually and in aggregate.


Daily intake of DEHP for critically ill preterm infants can reach 16 mg/kg per day, which is on the order of 4000 and 160,000 times higher than desired to avoid reproductive and hepatic toxicities, respectively. The non-endocrine toxicities of DEHP are similar to complications experienced by preterm neonates.


DEHP exposures in neonatal intensive care are much higher than estimated safe limits, and might contribute to common early and chronic complications of prematurity. Concerns about phthalates should be expanded beyond endocrine disruption.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge Thomas A. Burke for his advice on the conceptual design and development of this study.

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Correspondence to E B Mallow.

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Mallow, E., Fox, M. Phthalates and critically ill neonates: device-related exposures and non-endocrine toxic risks. J Perinatol 34, 892–897 (2014).

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