Concentrations of phthalate metabolites in breast milk in Korea: Estimating exposure to phthalates and potential risks among breast-fed infants

Sunmi Kim, Jangwoo Lee, Jeongim Park, Hai Joong Kim, Geumjoon Cho, Gun Ha Kim, So Hee Eun, Jeong Jae Lee, Gyuyeon Choi, Eunsook Suh, Sooran Choi, Sungjoo Kim, Young Don Kim, Sung Koo Kim, Su Young Kim, Seunghyo Kim, Soyong Eom, Hyo Bang Moon, Sungkyoon Kim, Kyungho Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Phthalates have been associated with endocrine disruption and developmental effects in many experimental and epidemiological studies. Developing infants are among the most susceptible populations to endocrine disruption. However, limited information is available on phthalate exposure and its associated risks among breast-fed newborn infants. In the present study, breast milk samples were collected from 62 lactating mothers at 1. month post-partum from four cities of Korea in 2012 and were evaluated for six phthalate metabolites (mono-isobutyl phthalate (MiBP), mono-n-butyl phthalate (MnBP), mono(2-ethyl-hexyl) phthalate (MEHP), mono-(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate (MEHHP), mono-(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate (MEOHP) and monoethyl phthalate (MEP)). MEP was detected in all breast milk samples, with a median concentration of 0.37. μg/L, and MiBP, MnBP and MEHP were detected in 79-89% of samples, with median concentrations of 1.10, 1.70, and 2.08. μg/L, respectively. However, MEHHP and MEOHP, the oxidized forms of di-ethyl-hexyl phthalate (DEHP), were detected in only one sample. For exposure assessment, the levels of phthalate diesters were estimated based on the parent:metabolite ratios in the breast milk that are reported elsewhere. For risk assessment, the endocrine-related toxicity of the monoester was assumed to be the same as that of its diester form. Median daily intake estimates of phthalates, including both monoester and diester forms, through breast milk consumption ranged between 0.91 and 6.52. μg/kg body weight (bw) for DEHP and between 0.38 and 1.43. μg/kg bw for di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP). Based on the estimated daily intake, up to 8% of infants exceeded the reference dose of anti-androgenicity (RfD AA) for DEHP, and 6% of infants exceeded the tolerable daily intake (TDI) for DnBP. Breast milk MiBP and MnBP concentrations showed significant positive associations with maternal consumption of whipped cream or purified water. Considering vulnerability of young infants, efforts to mitigate phthalate exposure among lactating women are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-19
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Mar 1
Externally publishedYes


  • DEHP
  • Daily intake
  • DnBP
  • MEHP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Concentrations of phthalate metabolites in breast milk in Korea: Estimating exposure to phthalates and potential risks among breast-fed infants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this