Phthalates in Indoor Dust and Their Association with Building Characteristics

By Bornehag, Carl-Gustaf; Lundgren, Bjorn et al. | Environmental Health Perspectives, October 2005 | Go to article overview

Phthalates in Indoor Dust and Their Association with Building Characteristics


Bornehag, Carl-Gustaf, Lundgren, Bjorn, Weschler, Charles J., Sigsgaard, Torben, Hagerhed-Engman, Linda, Sundell, Jan, Environmental Health Perspectives


In a recent study of 198 Swedish children with persistent allergic symptoms and 202 controls without such symptoms, we reported associations between the symptoms and the concentrations of n-butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP) and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) in dust taken from the childrens' bedrooms. In the present study we examined associations between the concentrations of different phthalate esters in the dust from these bedrooms and various characteristics of the home. The study focused on BBzP and DEHP because these were the phthalates associated with health complaints. Associations have been examined using parametric and nonparametric tests as well as multiple logistic regression. For both BBzP and DEHP, we found associations between their dust concentrations and the amount of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used as flooring and wall material in the home. Furthermore, high concentrations of BBzP (above median) were associated with self-reported water leakage in the home, and high concentrations of DEHP were associated with buildings constructed before 1960. Other associations, as well as absence of associations, are reported. Both BBzP and DEHP were found in buildings with neither PVC flooring nor wall covering, consistent with the numerous additional plasticized materials that are anticipated to be present in a typical home. The building characteristics examined in this study cannot serve as complete proxies for these quite varied sources. However, the associations reported here can help identify homes where phthalate concentrations are likely to be elevated and can aid in developing mitigation strategies. Key words: BBzP, building characteristics, DEHP, DnBP, homes, PVC flooring, sources.

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For almost a quarter-century, phthalate esters have been recognized as major indoor pollutants (Clausen et al. 2003; Fromme et al. 2004; Rudel et al. 2003; Wensing et al. 2005; Weschler 1980, 1984). This reflects their widespread use, primarily as plasticizers, in products ranging from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) flooring to vinyl toys. Worldwide phthalate production has been estimated to exceed 3.5 million tons/year (Cadogan and Howick 1996). Different phthalate esters have different chemical and physical properties and, consequently, have different uses. Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) accounts for roughly 50% of overall phthalate production, although this percentage has been decreasing in recent years. Most of the current DEHP production is used in PVC products, including PVC flooring, where it typically constitutes 30% of PVC by weight [Cadogan and Howick 1996; Kavlock et al. 2002b; National Toxicology Program (NTP) 2003]. The production of n-butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP) and di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) is about one-tenth that of DEHP. BBzP is also used as a plasticizer for PVC flooring, as well as for vinyl tile, carpet tiles, and artificial leather and in certain adhesives (Kavlock et al. 2002a). DnBP is used in latex adhesives, as a plasticizer in cellulose plastics, as a solvent for certain dyes, and, to a lesser extent than DEHP, as a plasticizer in PVC (Kavlock et al. 2002c).

Health concerns related to phthalate ester exposures have focused primarily on cancer and reproductive effects (Kavlock et al. 2002a, 2002b, 2002c; NTP 2003). However, phthalate exposures have also been postulated to have a role in the pathogenesis of asthma (Oie et al. 1997), and plasticized indoor materials have been associated with the development of bronchial obstruction in young children (Jaakkola et al. 1999). We recently reported an association between asthma and allergies in children and phthalate concentrations in dust collected from the children's bedrooms (Bornehag et al. 2004b). The geometric mean concentrations of BBzP were higher in dust front rooms of children with rhinitis compared with controls (0.237 vs. 0.157 mg/g dust, p = 0.001) and of children with eczema compared with controls (0.224 vs. 0.157 mg/g dust, p = 0. …

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