Maternal phthalate exposure associated with decreased testosterone/LH ratio in male offspring during mini-puberty. Odense Child Cohort

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Background: Phthalates are plastic softeners with anti-androgenic properties. Prenatal exposure has led to lower testosterone (T) levels and smaller testicles in adult rats. To our knowledge, no studies have examined associations between prenatal phthalate exposure and sex hormone concentrations in infants. Objective: To study associations between phthalate exposure in Danish pregnant women and T, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), Δ4-androstenedione (adion), 17α-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP) dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) concentrations in their infants (N = 479) during mini-puberty. Methods: Concentrations of 12 phthalate metabolites from six phthalate diesters were measured in urine samples collected from 2010 to 2012 from 479 pregnant women participating in the Odense Child Cohort at gestational week 28 (range 20.4–30.4). Serum T, LH, FSH, adion, 17-OHP, DHEAS, weight and height were measured approximately three months after expected date of birth. Associations between prenatal phthalate exposure and gonadotropin and androgen metabolite concentrations were estimated in boys and girls separately in adjusted linear regression models. Results: T concentration was lower in boys prenatally exposed to phthalates. Maternal urinary concentrations of summed mono-iso-butyl and mono-n-butyl phthalate (∑MBPi+n) and summed metabolites of di-iso-nonyl phthalate (∑DiNPm) were associated with lower T/LH ratio in male offspring and a dose-response association was found. FSH was 14% (95% CI: 1; 25) lower among male offspring from mothers exposed to ∑DiNPm in the highest compared to the lowest tertile. No association was found for girls. Conclusion: Even in these low exposed children, we found a significant decrease in T/LH ratio during mini-puberty in boys prenatally exposed to phthalates, which may suggest impairment of Leydig cells. The children will be followed as they approach adrenarche and pubarche in order to assess if long-term adverse effects persist.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106025
JournalEnvironment International
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Mini-puberty
  • Phthalates
  • Pregnancy exposure
  • Testosterone/LH ratio


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