Exploration of long-term exposure markers for phthalate esters in human hair using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry

Jing Fang Hsu, William Chih Wei Chang, Wen Ying Ho, Pao Chi Liao

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Phthalate esters are a group of synthetic industrial chemicals that are widely used in plastics. Urinary phthalate metabolites are short-term exposure markers frequently used to represent exposure levels in environmental epidemiology studies. Human hair is an alternative matrix for recording long-term exposure, but there are still analytical challenges that need to be addressed. In this study, an analytical method was established for simultaneously measuring nine major phthalate metabolites in human hair and successfully applied to measure phthalate metabolites in 30 hair samples collected from 30 individual human volunteers without known occupational exposure to phthalates. Two portions of 25 mg of hair samples were extracted by acidified methanol and water in 240 min of ultrasonication and then analyzed using a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry system. The limit of quantification ranged from 0.72 to 10.7 ng/g hair for nine phthalate metabolites. All nine phthalate metabolites were detected in more than 70% of the 30 individual human hair samples. The measured levels of hair phthalate metabolites were (in descending order): MEHP > MMP ≫ MEP > MBP (MnBP + MiBP) > MiNP > MEHHP ≈ MEOHP ≈ MECPP. The primary metabolite, MEHP (692 ± 582 ng/g), is the major DEHP metabolite in hair. This result is consistent with the findings in blood but not in urine, in which the secondary metabolites are the major DEHP metabolites. This method is easy to foresee with a clinical application and applies to human biomonitoring studies to assess long-term environmental phthalate exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number339610
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Apr 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy


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