Comment in Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Mar;113(3):A152-3.
Global phthalate ester production has increased from very low levels at the end of World War II to approximately 3.5 million metric tons/year. The aim of the present study was to investigate potential associations between persistent allergic symptoms in children, which have increased markedly in developed countries over the past three decades, and the concentration of phthalates in dust collected from their homes.
This investigation is a case-control study nested within a cohort of 10,852 children. From the cohort, we selected 198 cases with persistent allergic symptoms and 202 controls without allergic symptoms.
A clinical and a technical team investigated each child and her or his environment.
We found higher median concentrations of butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP) in dust among cases than among controls (0.15 vs. 0.12 mg/g dust). Analyzing the case group by symptoms showed that BBzP was associated with rhinitis (p = 0.001) and eczema (p = 0.001), whereas di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) was associated with asthma (p = 0.022). Furthermore, dose-response relationships for these associations are supported by trend analyses.
This study shows that phthalates, within the range of what is normally found in indoor environments, are associated with allergic symptoms in children. We believe that the different associations of symptoms for the three major phthalates-BBzP, DEHP, and di-n-butyl phthalate-can be explained by a combination of chemical physical properties and toxicologic potential. Given the phthalate exposures of children worldwide, the results from this study of Swedish children have global implications.
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First Published March 2005
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