Does exposure to phthalates influence thyroid function and growth hormone homeostasis? The Taiwan Environmental Survey for Toxicants (TEST) 2013

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Previous epidemiologic and toxicological studies provide some inconsistent evidence that exposure to phthalates may affect thyroid function and growth hormone homeostasis.


To assess the relations between exposure to phthalates and indicators of thyroid function and growth hormone homeostasis disturbances both among adults and minors.


We conducted a population-based cross-sectional study of 279 Taiwanese adults (≥18 years old) and 79 minors (<18 years old) in 2013. Exposure assessment was based on urinary biomarkers, 11 phthalate metabolites measured by using online liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry. Indicators of thyroid function included serum levels of thyroxine (T4), free T4, triiodothyronine, thyroid-stimulating hormone, and thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG). Growth hormone homeostasis was measured as the serum levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 (IGFBP3). We applied multivariate linear regression models to examine these associations after adjusting for covariates.


Among adults, serum T4 levels were negatively associated with urinary mono-(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate (β=−0.028, P=0.043) and the sum of urinary di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) metabolite (β=−0.045, P=0.017) levels. Free T4 levels were negatively associated with urinary mono-ethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP) (β=−0.013, P=0.042) and mono-(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate (β=−0.030, P=0.003) levels, but positively associated with urinary monoethyl phthalate (β=0.014, P=0.037) after adjustment for age, BMI, gender, urinary creatinine levels, and TBG levels. Postive associations between urinary MEHP levels and IGF-1 levels (β=0.033, P=0.006) were observed. Among minors, free T4 was positively associated with urinary mono benzyl phthalate levels (β=0.044, P=0.001), and IGF-1 levels were negatively associated with the sum of urinary DEHP metabolite levels (β=−0.166, P=0.041) after adjustment for significant covariance and IGFBP3.


Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that exposure to phthalates influences thyroid function and growth hormone homeostasis.

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