Oral intake exposure to phthalates in vegetables produced in plastic greenhouses and its health burden in Shaanxi province, China

Yanxia Zhang, Biao Huang, Clive E. Sabel, Marianne Thomsen, Xiangyun Gao, Ming Zhong, Zhikun Chen, Puyang Feng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Phthalate exposure from Vegetables grown in Plastic Greenhouses (VPGs) represents an important source of total daily phthalate exposure in China. However, quantified health risks of phthalates attributable to VPG intake have not been documented. To fill this gap, this study estimates phthalate exposure from VPG intake in western China and calculates the first assessment of the disease burden associated with phthalate exposure from VPG intake in China based on a simple steady-state exposure model and a linear dose-response function between human bio-monitoring phthalates and Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) prevalence. What we present in this paper is a problem identification and screening level risk assessment. We chose Shaanxi province as the research field site due to its large contribution to the total vegetable yield and consumption in western China. Phthalate concentration in VPG samples, phthalate exposure levels from VPG intake, and the T2D burden caused by phthalate attributable to VPG intake for adults were measured or calculated. Di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) was found to represent over 55% of the total phthalate concentration in VPGs, followed by di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) and di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP). Phthalate exposure from VPG intake for urban adults was higher than the level for rural adults. The share of DEHP exposure from VPG intake to urinary total DEHP metabolites were nearly 8% and 15%, and the share of DnBP exposure caused by VPG intake to total daily DnBP metabolites were nearly 4% and 7%, for rural and urban adult populations in Shaanxi, respectively. The adult population with T2D attributable to phthalate exposure from VPG intake was 2561, nearly 6.4% to the T2D burden attributable to total phthalate exposure, and 0.4% to the total adult population with T2D in Shaanxi. The authors recommend policy interventions to protect populations from future risk of phthalate exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number133921
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


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