German Environmental Specimen Bank: 24-hour urine samples from 1999 to 2017 reveal rapid increase in exposure to the para-phthalate plasticizer di(2-ethylhexyl) terephthalate (DEHTP)

2019, Journals

Lessmann, Frederik; Kolossa-Gehring, Marike; Apel, Petra; Rüther, Maria; Pälmke, Claudia; Harth, Volker; Brüning, Thomas; Koch, Holger Martin
Environment International 132 (2019), 105102


The worldwide plasticizer markets are facing constant substitution processes. Many classic ortho-phthalate plasticizers like di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) are phased out, due to their proven toxicity to reproduction. Assumedly less critical, less regulated plasticizers such as di(2-ethylhexyl) terephthalate (DEHTP) are increasingly applied in consumer near products like toys, food contact materials, and medical devices. With the increasing use of DEHTP, increasing exposures of the general population have to be expected likewise. Human biomonitoring is a well-established tool to determine population exposures. In the present study we investigate the time trend of exposure to DEHTP using 24-hour urine samples of the German Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB) collected from 1999 to 2017. In these samples (60 per odd-numbered year, 600 samples in total) collected from young German adults (20-29 years, equal gender distribution) we determined four specific urinary me-tabolites as biomarkers of DEHTP exposure. From 1999 to 2009, the main specific urinary metabolite 5cx-MEPTP was quantifiable in < 10% of the samples. Thereafter, detection rates and levels constantly increased, in line with rapidly increasing DEHTP consumption volumes. In 2017, all samples had 5cx-MEPTP levels above the limit of quantification (LOQ) with a median concentration of 3.35 μg/L (95th percentile: 12.8 μg/L). The other metabolites were detected less frequently and at lower levels but correlated well with 5cx-MEPTP robustly confirming the increasing DEHTP exposure. All 5cx-MEPTP concentrations were well below the German health based guidance value (HBM-I) of 2800 μg/L for adults. Likewise, the median calculated daily intake, based on 5cx-MEPTP measured in 2017, was 0.74 μg/kg bw * d (95th percentile: 3.86 μg/kg bw * d), still well below the tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 1000 μg/kg bw * d. Based on current toxicological knowledge we can hence conclude that for the population investigated, DEHTP exposure gives no reason for immediate concern. However, the steep ongoing increase of DEHTP exposure warrants further close monitoring in the future, preferably also in sub-populations with known higher exposures to plasticizers, especially children.

doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.105102