Urinary phthalate concentrations in mothers and their children in Ireland: Results of the DEMOCOPHES human biomonitoring study

Elizabeth Cullen*, David Evans, Chris Griffin, Padraig Burke, Rory Mannion, Damien Burns, Andrew Flanagan, Ann Kellegher, Greet Schoeters, Eva Govarts, Pierre Biot, Ludwine Casteleyn, Argelia Castaño, Marike Kolossa-Gehring, Marta Esteban, Gerda Schwedler, Holger M. Koch, Jürgen Angerer, Lisbeth E. Knudsen, Reinhard JoasAnke Joas, Birgit Dumez, Ovnair Sepai, Karen Exley, Dominique Aerts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Phthalates are chemicals which are widespread in the environment. Although the impacts on health of such exposure are unclear, there is evidence of a possible impact on the incidence of a diverse range of diseases. Monitoring of human exposure to phthalates is therefore important. This study aimed to determine the extent of phthalate exposure among mothers and their children in both rural and urban areas in Ireland, and to identify factors associated with elevated concentrations. It formed part of the ‘Demonstration of a study to Co-ordinate and Perform Human Biomonitoring on a European Scale’ (DEMOCOPHES) pilot biomonitoring study. Methods: the concentration of phthalate metabolites were determined from a convenience sample of 120 mother/child pairs. The median age of the children was 8 years. A questionnaire was used to collect information regarding lifestyle and environmental conditions of the children and mothers. Rigorous quality assurance within DEMOCOPHES guaranteed the accuracy and international comparability of results. Results: Phthalate metabolites were detected in all of the samples from both children and mothers. Concentrations were significantly higher in respondents from families with lower educational attainment and in those exposed to such items as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), fast food and personal care products (PCP). Conclusions: The study demonstrates that human biomonitoring for assessing exposure to phthalates can be undertaken in Ireland and that the exposure of the population is widespread. Further work will be necessary before the consequences of this exposure are understood.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1456
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: We would like to acknowledge the funders of the DEMOCOPHES project (LIFE09 ENV/BE/000410) which was jointly financed by the European Commission Programme LIFE and each participating country (http://www.eu-hbm.info/democophes/project-partners). In addition, we would like to thank the COPHES project for providing the operational and scientific framework (European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme—DG Research Grant Agreement Number 244237). Special thanks to all the mothers and children who agreed to participate in the study. In addition the WP team leaders and the national implementation teams, particularly the Irish national team (Catherine Cosgrove, David O’Brien, Rita O’Grady, Niamh McGrath, Anita Larini, Carol Nolan, Gemma McGrane and Sarah Duffy) for support in terms of data collection, analysis, and interpretation. We would like to thank Claire Dunne and Fiona Kavanagh for proof reading and assistance throughout the project, and Padraig Manning, Clinical Librarian and Elaine Scanlon, Library assistant from the HSE library in Steevens’ hospital, Dublin 8 for their assistance in accessing the literature.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Endocrine disruptors
  • Exposure
  • Human biomonitoring
  • Phthalates


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