77. Prenatal exposure to phthalates and male reproductive system development: results from a Canadian pregnancy cohort study (lay summary)

Romao, R.L.P, Dodds L, Ashley-Martin J, Monnier P, Arbuckle TE. Reproductive Toxicology. 2020 May 5;95:11-18. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2020.04.078

Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase flexibility in plastics.  We can also be exposed to phthalates when we use household products such as some cosmetics, building materials, paints, adhesives, printing inks and food packaging materials.  Some phthalates may disrupt the endocrine system and in particular affect male reproductive health.  One way to study potential effects on the reproductive system is to measure the size of genitals in male infants.  A reduced size of the penis might be an indication of adverse effects on the infant’s future reproductive health.

The goal of this study was to examine whether prenatal exposure to phthalates was associated with reduced length or width of an infant’s penis.  Phthalates were measured in first trimester urines of MIREC participants.  The length and width of the penis were measured in full term singleton infants at birth as part of the MIREC-ID study.  Data for 170 mother-infant pairs were available for analysis.

This study did not find any significant associations between phthalate concentrations in mother’s urine and reduction in size of the infant’s penis.

In conclusion, in this population of Canadian women, the results suggest that exposure of pregnant women to current levels of these phthalates was not associated with reduced size of the penis in male infants.

This study was led by scientists at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, in partnership with Health Canada scientists.