One overlooked source from phthalate exposure - Oral intake of vegetables produced in plastic greenhouses in China

Yanxia Zhang, Huang Biao, Marianne Thomsen, Clive E. Sabel, Fabian Hess, Wenyou Hu, Kang Tian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


With increasing consumption of Vegetables planted in Plastic Greenhouses (VPGs) in China, phthalate exposure from VPGs represents an overlooked source of total daily exposure, since VPGs are not included in current phthalate exposure scenarios. For this reason, current exposure scenario modeling may underestimate the daily phthalate exposure in relation to adverse health impacts. Thus, in this paper we estimated the oral intake exposure to phthalates from VPGs by studying four provinces ranging from the north to the south in eastern China, based on published data. Exposures to di(2-ethylhexyl)-phthalate (DEHP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) were assessed for various population groups differentiated by age, sex, income, and region. Younger children experienced the highest exposure from VPG intake (mean 1.55 (0.19 and 6.20) (2.5th and 97.5th percentiles) μg/kg/body weight (bw)/day), followed by older children, teenagers, and adults (0.53 (0.06 and 1.80)). Exposures in urban populations were significantly higher than those in rural areas, and when examined by income, urban populations with low-income had the lowest exposures and the upper-middle income group was associated with the highest levels. Exposures in northeastern and southern provinces were higher than the levels in middle provinces due to regional disparities in dietary habits. Proportions of the mean oral intake exposures to DEHP and DBP from VPGs to the total daily exposure by modeling different exposure pathways and media were over 10% for all age groups. The DEHP and DBP exposure from VPG intake in China were found to be much higher than the levels in western countries. For example, exposures of older children to DBP and DEHP were respectively 17 and 4 times higher than European levels. The authors recommend policy interventions to protect populations from future risk of phthalate exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1127-1135
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


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