Phthalate metabolites in urine samples from Beijing children and correlations with phthalate levels in their handwipes

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Little attention has been paid to dermal absorption of phthalates even though modeling suggests that this pathway may contribute meaningfully to total uptake. We have concurrently collected handwipe and urine samples from 39 Beijing children (5–9 years) for the purpose of measuring levels of five phthalates in handwipes, corresponding concentrations of eight of their metabolites in urine, and to subsequently assess the contribution of dermal absorption to total uptake. In summer sampling, DEHP was the most abundant phthalate in handwipes (median: 1130 μg/m2), while MnBP was the most abundant metabolite in urine (median: 232 ng/ml). We found significant associations between the parent phthalate in handwipes and its monoester metabolite in urine for DiBP (r = 0.41, P = 0.01), DnBP (r = 0.50, P = 0.002), BBzP (r = 0.48, P = 0.003), and DEHP (r = 0.36, P = 0.03). Assuming that no dermal uptake occurred under clothing-covered skin, we estimate that dermal absorption of DiBP, DnBP, BBzP, and DEHP contributed 6.9%, 4.6%, 6.9%, and 3.3%, respectively, to total uptake. Assuming that somewhat attenuated dermal uptake occurred under clothing-covered skin, these estimates increase to 19%, 14%, 17%, and 10%. The results indicate that absorption from skin surfaces makes a meaningful contribution to total phthalate uptake for children and should be considered in future risk assessments.

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