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Temporal trends of phthalate exposures during 2007–2010 in Swedish pregnant women



The general population is exposed to phthalates, a group of chemicals with strong evidence for endocrine disrupting properties, commonly used in a large number of consumer products. Based on published research and evidence compiled by environmental agencies, certain phthalate applications and products have become restricted, leading to an increasing number of “new generation compounds” coming onto the market during recent years replacing older phthalates. Some examples of such newer compounds are di-iso-nonyl phthalate (DiNP), di-iso-decyl phthalate (DiDP), and most recently di-isononyl-cyclohexane-1,2-dicarboxylate (DiNCH).


In order to evaluate temporal trends in phthalate exposure, first trimester urinary biomarkers of phthalates were measured in the Swedish SELMA study over a period of 2.5 years (2007–2010).


We collected first morning void urine samples around week 10 of pregnancy from 1651 pregnant women. Spot samples were analyzed for 13 phthalate metabolites and one phthalate replacement and least square geometric mean (LSGM) levels of the metabolites were compared between the sampling years when adjusted for potential confounders.


All 14 metabolites were detectable in more than 99% of the SELMA subjects. The levels were generally comparable to other studies, but the SELMA subjects showed slightly higher exposure to butyl-benzyl phthalate (BBzP) and di-butyl phthalate (DBP). Di-ethyl-hexyl phthalate (DEHP) metabolites levels decreased while DiNP, DiDP/di-2-propylheptyl phthalate (DPHP), and DiNCH metabolites levels increased during the sampling period.


Urinary metabolite levels of the older phthalates and more recently introduced phthalate replacement compound changed during the short sampling period in this Swedish pregnancy cohort. Our results indicate that replacement of phthalates can make an impact on human exposure to these chemicals. During this particularly vulnerable stage of life, phthalate exposures are of particular concern as the impacts, though not immediately noticeable, may increase the risk for health effects later in life.

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The study was funded by grants from the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas), Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association’s Research Foundation, the Swedish Foundation for Health Care Sciences and Allergy Research and the County Council of Värmland. We also thank all the participating families.

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Correspondence to Carl-Gustaf Bornehag.

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Shu, H., Jönsson, B.A., Gennings, C. et al. Temporal trends of phthalate exposures during 2007–2010 in Swedish pregnant women. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 28, 437–447 (2018).

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  • Phthalates
  • DiNCH
  • SELMA-Study
  • Endocrine disrupting chemicals
  • Pregnant
  • Exposure
  • Temporal


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