Master's Project Title:

The Effects of Early Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals: A Review of Phthalates and Reproductive Maturation in Children

MCH Student:

Kerri Sawyer

Date of Defense:

August, 2008


Multiple studies have confirmed that human exposure to phthalates is widespread. Their endocrine disruptive properties can interfere with hormone regulation and contribute to adverse health effects. Increasing attention with regard to the importance of protecting children from environmental insults has created a need to identify how risks to children’s health differ with each developmental stage.

This literature review seeks to evaluate the link between early exposure to phthalates and their effects on reproductive maturation. Implications for environmental sensitivity to phthalates are discussed in light of circumstances connecting early exposure with testicular dysgenesis syndrom and precocious puberty.

The review has revealed that children bear a disproportionate burden of phthalates in their bodies. However, the exact mechanisms through which phthalates exert their toxicity are unclear. Additional research is warranted to characterize how exposures to phthalates physiologically manifest in young girls. Inadequate assesment among vulnerable populations (i.e. Women of childbearing age, fetuses, premature infants in intensive care, toddlers, and adolescents) is also a concern, because adverse health effects and exposure outcomes which go undetected early in life can have significant repercussions for future generations.