Effects of high di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) exposure due to tainted food intake on pre-pubertal growth characteristics in a Taiwanese population

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23 Citations (Scopus)


On May 23, 2011, a major scandal involving the illegal use of phthalates as clouding agents in food products was reported. Specifically, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) was purposefully added to foods as a substitute emulsifier. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of DEHP exposure on the growth characteristics of the child victims of this scandal. Eighty-eight victims, originating from northern, central, and southern Taiwan and ranging in age from 6.0 to 10.5 years, were invited to participate in this study during clinic visits. The participants underwent follow-up health examinations from August 2012 to February 2013. We collected information on each participant's history of exposure to tainted food products using a questionnaire, and we analyzed their urinary concentrations of DEHP metabolites using high-performance liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry. These data were then used to estimate their daily DEHP intake (DIAll) during the scandal. We also measured physical development parameters (height, weight, and bone age) and hormone levels (thyroid, sex and growth hormones) to evaluate their overall growth characteristics. The average (SD) duration of DEHP intake from tainted nutrition supplements was 1.39 (1.01) years. The median DIAll values were 19.93 and 20.69 μg/kg bw/day for boys and girls, respectively. Among the enrolled children, the DIAll values of 46.9% of boys and 51.3% of girls exceeded the reference dose (RfD) of 20 μg/kg bw/day established by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Our results demonstrate that DIAll is negatively associated with the height percentile, weight percentile, bone age/chronological age, and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels but not with IGF binding protein 3 (IGF-BP3) level, IGF-1/IGF-BP3, sex hormones, or thyroid hormone levels. The DEHP DIAll value exceeded the RfD at high rates among children of both genders. Our results suggest that high levels of DEHP exposure due to the consumption of tainted food products are negatively associated with body weight, height, bone age, and IGF-1 levels in children. The likelihood of delayed puberty among the affected children is therefore a reasonable concern, and further follow-up is required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-205
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Aug 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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