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Arch Hellen Med, 29(5), September-October 2012, 539-549


The effect of phthalates as endocrine disruptors in human health

T.V. Kastanias, S.P. Tokmakidis
Department of Physical Education and Sports Science, University of Thrace, Komotini, Greece

Phthalates are a class of man-made synthetic chemicals with ubiquitous human exposures because of their extensive use since the 1930s. Environmental phthalates act as endocrine disruptors, with potential detrimental health effects. High concentrations have been reported in household dust and indoor air, and phthalates are found in a wide variety of common consumer products, such as cosmetics (baby care products, soap, shampoo, conditioners, perfumes), building materials, food packaging, paints, adhesives, lubricants, clothing, children's toys, medications, and medical equipment made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics. Humans are exposed to these compounds through ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact. The most common types of phthalate esters are: di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), di-nbutyl phthalate (DBP), benzylbutylphthalate (BBP or BBzP), also called n-butyl benzyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate DEP, diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP). High concentrations of phthalate have been reported in many body fluids, including urine, sperm, amniotic fluid, breast milk, saliva and blood. Public concern over phthalates has emerged in recent years due to their potential human toxicity. Phthalates can disrupt endocrine function and induce reproductive and developmental toxicity. They can cross the placental barrier and may pollute human milk. Because of prenatal phthalate exposure, infants and children are considered to be a population at increased risk, as they are exposed early in life to different sources of phthalates. Although the effects of phthalates on human health are still not fully understood, current research evidence suggests that phthalates may affect primarily the reproductive, endocrine and immune systems. This review synthesizes the current available literature related to phthalates and human health, in an attempt to evaluate the relationship between phthalate exposure, health status and quality of life.

Key words: Endocrine disrupters, Phthalates, Reproductive health, Testicular dysgenesis syndrome.

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