Prenatal phenol and phthalate exposures and birth outcomes

Mary S Wolff, Stephanie M Engel, Gertrud S Berkowitz, Xiaoyun Ye, Manori J Silva, Chenbo Zhu, James Wetmur, Antonia M Calafat
Environmental Health Perspectives 2008, 116 (8): 1092-7

BACKGROUND: Many phthalates and phenols are hormonally active and are suspected to alter the course of development.

OBJECTIVE: We investigated prenatal exposures to phthalate and phenol metabolites and their associations with body size measures of the infants at birth.

METHODS: We measured 5 phenol and 10 phthalate urinary metabolites in a multiethnic cohort of 404 women in New York City during their third trimester of pregnancy and recorded size of infants at birth.

RESULTS: Median urinary concentrations were > 10 microg/L for 2 of 5 phenols and 6 of 10 phthalate monoester metabolites. Concentrations of low-molecular-weight phthalate monoesters (low-MWP) were approximately 5-fold greater than those of high-molecular-weight metabolites. Low-MWP metabolites had a positive association with gestational age [0.97 day gestational age per ln-biomarker; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.07-1.9 days, multivariate adjusted] and with head circumference. Higher prenatal exposures to 2,5-dichlorophenol (2,5-DCP) predicted lower birth weight in boys (-210 g average birth weight difference between the third tertile and first tertile of 2,5-DCP; 95% CI, 71-348 g). Higher maternal benzophenone-3 (BP3) concentrations were associated with a similar decrease in birth weight among girls but with greater birth weight in boys.

CONCLUSIONS: We observed a range of phthalate and phenol exposures during pregnancy in our population, but few were associated with birth size. The association of 2,5-DCP and BP3 with reduced or increased birth weight could be important in very early or small-size births. In addition, positive associations of urinary metabolites with some outcomes may be attributable partly to unresolved confounding with maternal anthropometric factors.

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