Author(s): John D Meeker, Sheela Sathyanarayana, Shanna H Swan
Concern exists over whether additives in plastics to which most people are exposed, such as phthalates, bisphenol A or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, may cause harm to human health by altering endocrine function or through other biological mechanisms. Human data are limited compared with the large body of experimental evidence documenting reproductive or developmental toxicity in relation to these compounds. Here, we discuss the current state of human evidence, as well as future research trends and needs. Because exposure assessment is often a major weakness in epidemiological studies, and in utero exposures to reproductive or developmental toxicants are important, we also provide original data on maternal exposure to phthalates during and after pregnancy (n = 242). Phthalate metabolite concentrations in urine showed weak correlations between pre- and post-natal samples, though the strength of the relationship increased when duration between the two samples decreased. Phthalate metabolite levels also tended to be higher in post-natal samples. In conclusion, there is a great need for more human studies of adverse health effects associated with plastic additives. Recent advances in the measurement of exposure biomarkers hold much promise in improving the epidemiological data, but their utility must be understood to facilitate appropriate study design.