Environ Health Perspect. 2023 Dec;131(12):127015. doi: 10.1289/EHP12831. Epub 2023 Dec 20.


BACKGROUND: Phthalate exposures are ubiquitous during pregnancy and may contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in preterm birth.

OBJECTIVES: We investigated race and ethnicity in the relationship between biomarkers of phthalate exposure and preterm birth by examining: a) how hypothetical reductions in racial and ethnic disparities in phthalate metabolites might reduce the probability of preterm birth; and b) exposure-response models stratified by race and ethnicity.

METHODS: We pooled individual-level data on 6,045 pregnancies from 16 U.S. cohorts. We investigated covariate-adjusted differences in nine urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations by race and ethnicity [non-Hispanic White (White, 43%), non-Hispanic Black (Black, 13%), Hispanic/Latina (38%), and Asian/Pacific Islander (3%)]. Using g-computation, we estimated changes in the probability of preterm birth under hypothetical interventions to eliminate disparities in levels of urinary phthalate metabolites by proportionally lowering average concentrations in Black and Hispanic/Latina participants to be approximately equal to the averages in White participants. We also used race and ethnicity-stratified logistic regression to characterize associations between phthalate metabolites and preterm birth.

RESULTS: In comparison with concentrations among White participants, adjusted mean phthalate metabolite concentrations were consistently higher among Black and Hispanic/Latina participants by 23%-148% and 4%-94%, respectively. Asian/Pacific Islander participants had metabolite levels that were similar to those of White participants. Hypothetical interventions to reduce disparities in metabolite mixtures were associated with lower probabilities of preterm birth for Black [13% relative reduction; 95% confidence interval (CI): 34%, 8.6%] and Hispanic/Latina (9% relative reduction; 95% CI: 19%, 0.8%) participants. Odds ratios for preterm birth in association with phthalate metabolites demonstrated heterogeneity by race and ethnicity for two individual metabolites (mono-n-butyl and monoisobutyl phthalate), with positive associations that were larger in magnitude observed among Black or Hispanic/Latina participants.

CONCLUSIONS: Phthalate metabolite concentrations differed substantially by race and ethnicity. Our results show hypothetical interventions to reduce population-level racial and ethnic disparities in biomarkers of phthalate exposure could potentially reduce the probability of preterm birth. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP12831.

PMID:38117586 | PMC:PMC10732302 | DOI:10.1289/EHP12831