Association Between Urinary Phthalates and Pubertal Timing in Chinese Adolescents

Huijing Shi, Yang Cao, Qing Shen, Yan Zhao, Zhe Zhang, Yunhui Zhang
Journal of Epidemiology 2015, 25 (9): 574-82

BACKGROUND: Phthalates are synthetic chemicals and ubiquitous environmental contaminants, with hormonal activity that may alter the course of pubertal development in children.

OBJECTIVES: To determine whether exposure to phthalate metabolites is associated with timing of pubertal development in a cross-sectional study of a school-based clustered sample of 503 children from a suburban district in Shanghai, China, who were 7-14 years of age at enrollment (2010 October to November).

METHODS: We analyzed six phthalate metabolites in urine samples by isotope-dilution liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. The associations of exposures to phthalates with pubertal timing of testes, breast, and pubic hair development (represented as Tanner stages) were evaluated using an ordered logistic regression model adjusted for chronological age, body fat proportion (BF%), and parental education.

RESULTS: In boys, urinary mono-n-butyl phthalate (MBP) levels were negatively associated with testicular volume, and mono (2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate (MEHHP) and mono (2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate (MEOHP) levels were negatively associated with pubic hair stages. The odds of being in an advanced stage were decreased by 43%-51%. In girls, mono (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP), MEHHP, and MEOHP levels, as well as the sum of these levels, were positively associated with breast stages, and the association was much stronger in girls with high BF%; the odds of being in an advanced stage were increase by 29% to 50%.

CONCLUSIONS: Phthalate metabolites investigated in this study show significant associations with pubertal timing both in boys and in girls, especially among girls with high BF%.

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