To assess maternal–fetal exposure to phthalates and investigate whether in utero phthalate exposure is associated with low birth weight (LBW).
A total of 201 newborn–mother pairs (88 LBW cases and 113 controls) residing in Shanghai were enrolled in this nested case-control study during 2005–2006. Maternal blood, cord blood, and meconium specimens were collected and analyzed for phthalates by high-performance liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry. Nonparametric tests were used to compare demographic characteristics in cases and controls. Conditional logistic regression and Spearman correlation were used to analyze the association between phthalate exposure and LBW.
No significant differences in gestational age, prepregnancy body mass index, prenatal care, vitamin supplementation, or socioeconomic levels were found between the LBW and control infants. More than 70% of the biosamples had quantifiable levels of phthalates, with higher levels in the LBW infants compared with the controls. Prenatal di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) exposure was associated with LBW, and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) was negatively associated with birth length. After adjusting for the potential confounders, DBP concentrations in the highest quartile were associated with an increased risk of LBW.
Newborns in China are ubiquitously exposed to phthalates; significantly higher phthalate levels were detected in LBW cases compared with controls. In utero DBP and DEHP exposures were associated with LBW in a dose-dependent manner. Prenatal phthalate exposure may be a risk factor for LBW.