Urinary phthalates and body mass index in preschool children: The MIREC Child Development Plus study Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Childhood exposure to phthalates, a class of chemicals with known reproductive and developmental effects, has been hypothesized to increase the risk of obesity, but this association is not well understood in preschool children. We examined the association between urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites and concurrently measured body mass index (BMI) and skinfolds among children between the ages of two and five years. We collected anthropometric measures and biomonitoring data on approximately 200 children enrolled in the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals Child Development Plus study. We measured 22 phthalate metabolites in children's urine and used the 19 metabolites detected in at least 40% of samples. Our primary outcome was BMI z-scores calculated using the World Health Organization growth standards. Skinfold z-scores were secondary outcomes. We used multivariable linear regression to evaluate the association between tertiles of phthalate concentrations and each anthropometric measure. We also used weighted quantile sum regression to identify priority exposures of concern. Our analytic sample included 189 singleton-born children with complete anthropometric data. Children with concentrations of the parent compound di-n-butyl phthalate (∑DnBP) in the third tertile had 0.475 (95% CI: 0.068, 0.883) higher BMI z-scores than those in the lower tertile. ∑DnBP was identified as a priority exposure in the weighted quantile sum regression BMI model. In this population of Canadian preschool aged children, we identified DnBP as a potential chemical of concern in regard to childhood obesity. Future research with serial phthalate measurements and anthropometric measurements in young children will help confirm these findings.


  • Ashley-Martin, Jillian
  • Dodds, Linda
  • Arbuckle, Tye E
  • Lanphear, Bruce
  • Muckle, Gina
  • Foster, Warren
  • Ayotte, Pierre
  • Zidek, Angelika
  • Asztalos, Elizabeth
  • Bouchard, Maryse F
  • Kuhle, Stefan

publication date

  • March 2021