The effects of phthalate and nonylphenol exposure on body size and secondary sexual characteristics during puberty

Jia Woei Hou, Ching Ling Lin, Yen An Tsai, Chia Huang Chang, Kai Wei Liao, Ching Jung Yu, Winnie Yang, Ming Jun Lee, Po Chin Huang, Chien Wen Sun, Yin Han Wang, Fang Ru Lin, Wen Chiu Wu, Meng Chih Lee, Wen Harn Pan, Bai Hsiun Chen, Ming Tsang Wu, Chu Chih Chen, Shu Li Wang, Ching Chang LeeChao Agnes Hsiung, Mei Lien Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Some phthalic acid esters (PAEs) and nonylphenol (NP) are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that are widely used in consumer products. Consequently, the general population is exposed simultaneously to both groups of chemicals. Objective: To investigate the single- and co-exposure effects of PAEs (DMP, DEP, DnBP, DiBP, BBzP, and DEHP) and NP on obesity and pubertal maturity to compare the body sizes of general adolescents with the complainants of the phthalate-tainted foods scandal that occurred in Taiwan. Methods: This study included 270 general adolescents aged 6.5-15.0 years and 38 complainants aged 6.5-8.5 years. Nine metabolites of the five PAEs and of NP were measured in urine. We used a questionnaire to evaluate pubertal maturity, measured anthropometric indices (APs) to assess body size, and collected urine samples to measure the two groups of chemicals. Results: We found that urinary PAE metabolite concentrations (specifically, metabolites of DEP, DnBP, DiBP, and DEHP) were positively associated with the APs for abdominal obesity (including skinfold thickness, waist circumference, waist-to-height ratio, and waist-to-hip) and indicated a dose-response relationship. Mono-methyl phthalate (MMP) exposure was inversely associated with pubarche among boys. The daily intake of DEHP in general adolescents exceeded the reference doses (RfD-20. μg/kg. bw/day) and tolerable daily intake (TDI-50. μg/kg. bw/day) by 3.4% and 0.4%, respectively. No associations were observed between NP exposure or co-exposure and the APs or pubertal maturity. No significant differences were observed between general adolescents and the complainants with regard to weight, height, or BMI. Conclusions: The study suggests that PAE (specifically, DEP, DnBP, DiBP, and DEHP) exposure is associated with abdominal obesity in adolescents and that the APs for abdominal obesity are more sensitive than BMI for measuring obesity among adolescents. We suggest that the RfD and TDI for PAEs should be revised to provide sufficient protection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-615
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Endocrine-disrupting chemicals
  • Nonylphenol
  • Obesity
  • Phthalic acid esters
  • Pubertal maturity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'The effects of phthalate and nonylphenol exposure on body size and secondary sexual characteristics during puberty'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this