Excretion of Urinary Metabolites of the Phthalate Esters DEP and DEHP in 16 Volunteers after Inhalation and Dermal Exposure

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Phthalate esters are suspected endocrine disruptors that are found in a wide range of applications. The aim of this study was to determine the excretion of urinary metabolites in 16 individuals after inhalation and/or dermal exposure to 100⁻300 µg/m³ of deuterium-labelled diethyl phthalate (D₄-DEP) and bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (D₄-DEHP). Dermal exposure in this study represents a case with clean clothing acting as a barrier. After inhalation, D₄-DEP and D₄-DEHP metabolites were excreted rapidly, though inter-individual variation was high. D₄-DEP excretion peaked 3.3 h (T½ of 2.1 h) after combined inhalation and dermal exposure, with total excreted metabolite levels ranging from 0.055 to 2.351 nmol/nmol/m³ (nmol of urinary metabolites per phthalates air concentration in (nmol/m³)). After dermal exposure to D₄-DEP, metabolite excretion peaked 4.6 h (T½ of 2.7 h) after exposure, with excreted metabolite levels in between 0.017 and 0.223 nmol/nmol/m³. After combined inhalation and dermal exposure to D₄-DEHP, the excretion of all five analysed metabolites peaked after 4.7 h on average (T½ of 4.8 h), and metabolite levels ranged from 0.072 to 1.105 nmol/nmol/m³ between participants. No dermal uptake of particle phase D₄-DEHP was observed. In conclusion, the average excreted levels of metabolites after combined inhalation and dermal exposure to D₄-DEP was three times higher than after combined exposure to D₄-DEHP; and nine times higher than after dermal exposure of D₄-DEP. This study was made possible due to the use of novel approaches, i.e., the use of labelled phthalate esters to avoid the background concentration, and innovative technique of phthalate generation, both in the particle and the gas phase.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2514
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Nov 9

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Environmental Health and Occupational Health


  • human biomonitoring
  • human exposure studies
  • indoor air pollution
  • indoor environment
  • phthalate esters


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