Phthalates may adversely influence body composition by lowering anabolic hormones and activating peroxisome-proliferator activated receptor gamma. However, data are limited in adolescence when body mass distributions rapidly change and bone accrual peaks. Also, potential health effects of certain phthalate/replacements [e.g., di-2-ethylhexyl terephthalate (DEHTP)] have not been well studied.
Among 579 children in the Project Viva cohort, we used linear regression to evaluate associations of urinary concentrations of 19 phthalate/replacement metabolites from mid-childhood (median: 7.6 years; 2007-2010) with annualized change in areal bone mineral density (aBMD) and lean, total fat, and truncal fat mass as measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry between mid-childhood and early adolescence (median: 12.8 years). We used quantile g-computation to assess associations of the overall chemical mixture with body composition. We adjusted for sociodemographics and tested for sex-specific associations.
Urinary concentrations were highest for mono-2-ethyl-5-carboxypentyl phthalate [median (IQR): 46.7 (69.1) ng/mL]. We detected metabolites of most replacement phthalates in a relatively small number of participants [e.g., 28% for mono-2-ethyl-5-hydrohexyl terephthalate (MEHHTP; metabolite of DEHTP)]. Detectable (vs. non-detectable) MEHHTP was associated with less bone and greater fat accrual in males and greater bone and lean mass accrual in females [e.g., change in aBMD Z-score/year (95% CI): -0.049 (-0.085, -0.013) in males versus 0.042 (0.007, 0.076) in females; p<0.01]. Children with higher concentrations of mono-oxo-isononyl phthalate and mono-3-carboxypropyl phthalate (MCPP) had greater bone accrual. Males with higher concentrations of MCPP and mono-carboxynonyl phthalate had greater accrual of lean mass. Other phthalate/replacement biomarkers, and their mixtures, were not associated with longitudinal changes in body composition.
Concentrations of select phthalate/replacement metabolites in mid-childhood were associated with changes in body composition through early adolescence. As use of phthalate replacements such as DEHTP may be increasing, further investigation can help better understand the potential effects of early-life exposures.