Inhalation and Dermal Uptake of Particle and Gas-phase Phthalates - A Human Exposure Study

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Phthalates are ubiquitous in indoor environments, which raises concern about their endocrine disrupting properties. However, studies of human uptake from airborne exposure are limited. We studied the inhalation uptake and dermal uptake by air-to-skin transfer with clean clothing as a barrier of two deuterium-labelled airborne phthalates: particle-phase D4-DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate) and gas-phase D4-DEP (diethyl phthalate). Sixteen participants, wearing trousers and long-sleeved shirts, were under controlled conditions exposed to airborne phthalates in four exposure scenarios: dermal uptake alone, and combined inhalation+dermal uptake of both phthalates. The results showed an average uptake of D4-DEHP by inhalation of 0.0014±0.00088 (µg kg-1 bw)/(µg m-3)/h. No dermal uptake of D4-DEHP was observed during the 3 hour exposure with clean clothing. The deposited dose of D4-DEHP accounted for 26% of the total inhaled D4-DEHP mass. For D4-DEP, the average uptake by inhalation+dermal was 0.0067±0.0045 and 0.00073±0.00051 (µg kg-1 bw)/(µg m-3)/h for dermal uptake. Urinary excretion factors of metabolites after inhalation were estimated to 0.69 for D4-DEHP and 0.50 for D4-DEP. Under the described settings, the main uptake of both phthalates was through inhalation. The results demonstrate the differences in uptake of gas and particles, and highlights the importance of considering the deposited dose in particle uptake studies.


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  • Environmental Health and Occupational Health
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12792-12800
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number21
Early online date2018 Sep 28
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch