Children who were exposed to phthalates either prenatally or during early life did not necessarily incur a higher risk for allergic diseases, according to study results published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Urine samples were collected from mothers during the third trimester of pregnancy and from children at aged 2 and at aged 9 years. This urine was then analyzed via high performance liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry to detect the presence of phthalate metabolites. Researchers evaluated the potential associations between phthalate exposure and the presence of allergic diseases such as food allergy and atopic dermatitis.

A total of 145 children had prenatal and childhood urine samples available. When the phthalate metabolites in the urine were examined, higher urine concentration of mono-2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl phthalate (5oxo-MEHP) increased the risk for food allergy (odds ratio [OR], 1.75; 95% CI, 1.19-2.57; P =.004), but decreased the risk for atopic dermatitis in children at 9 years (OR, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.27-0.87; P =.015). Additionally, a higher urine concentration of mono-benzyl phthalate (MBzP) increased the risk for asthma in children (OR, 1.67; 95% CI, 1.08-2.58; P =.021), but the risk for asthma decreased when the concentration of mono-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP) was higher (OR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.43-0.97; P =.035).

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“The present study has not provided clear evidence for the negative impact of phthalate exposure during pregnancy and within the 9 years after birth on allergic diseases in children at early school age,” the researchers wrote. “[F]urther prospective studies with larger sample size and multiple time points of assessment are required, in order to elucidate which are the most critical periods of phthalate exposure on children’s allergic outcomes.”


Podlecka D, Gromadzińska J, Mikołajewska K, Fijałowska B, Stelmach I, Jerzynska J. Longitudinal impact of phthalates exposure on allergic diseases in children [published March 31, 2020]. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2020.03.022