Environ Res. 2022 Sep;212(Pt B):113239. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2022.113239. Epub 2022 Apr 8.
BACKGROUND: Phthalates are synthetic chemicals present in building materials, personal care products and other consumer goods. Limited studies link phthalates to pediatric asthma incidence; however, their effects on respiratory-related outcomes among those with pre-existing asthma remains unclear.
OBJECTIVE: We examined associations between phthalates and asthma symptoms, healthcare use, lung function, and lung inflammation among children with asthma.
METHODS: We collected repeated measures of urinary biomarkers for select phthalates and phthalate replacements (MBzP, MCINP, MCIOP, MCPP, MECPTP, MEHHTP, molar sum of DEHP biomarkers [MECPP, MEHHP, MEHP, MEOHP], MEP, MiBP, MnBP) and asthma symptoms, healthcare utilization, lung function, and inflammation among 148 predominantly low-income Black children (5-17 years) with persistent asthma every 3 months for one year. We used generalized estimating equations to assess associations between biomarker concentrations and asthma-related measures adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, caregiver’s education level, presence of smokers in the home, and season. We also considered co-exposures to other contaminants previously associated with asthma morbidity.
RESULTS: We observed consistent positive associations with individual DEHP biomarkers, the molar sum of DEHP, and BBzP with increased odds of asthma symptoms and with healthcare utilization (adjusted Odds Ratio for general asthma symptoms: ΣDEHP:1.49,95% Confidence Interval, CI:1.08-2.07; BBzP:1.34, CI:1.04-1.73). We observed similar associations between the DEHP phthalate replacement biomarker MEHHTP and most asthma symptoms evaluated; and with select low molecular weight phthalates (DiBP, DBP) and healthcare utilization. Results were similar when controlling for other environmental exposures (e.g., PM2.5, BPA). No associations were observed with lung function or inflammation, and overall, we did not observe consistent evidence of sexually dimorphic effects.
CONCLUSION: In the present study, we found evidence to suggest that exposure to select phthalates may be associated with asthma symptoms and healthcare utilization. These findings warrant confirmation given the high asthma burden and widespread and disparate phthalate exposures reported among select populations of color.