Neurotoxicity of Ortho-Phthalates: Recommendations for Critical Policy Reforms to Protect Brain Development in Children

Stephanie M. Engel, Heather B. Patisaul, Charlotte Brody, Russ Hauser, Ami R. Zota, Deborah H. Bennet, Maureen Swanson, Robin M. Whyatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Robust data from longitudinal birth cohort studies and experimental studies of perinatally exposed animals indicate that exposure to ortho-phthalates can impair brain development and increase risks for learning, attention, and behavioral disorders in childhood. This growing body of evidence, along with known adverse effects on male reproductive tract development, calls for immediate action.Exposures are ubiquitous; the majority of people are exposed to multiple ortho-phthalates simultaneously. We thus recommend that a class approach be used in assessing health impacts as has been done with other chemical classes. We propose critically needed policy reforms to eliminate ortho-phthalates from products that lead to exposure of pregnant women, women of reproductive age, infants, and children. Specific attention should be focused on reducing exposures among socially vulnerable populations such as communities of color, who frequently experience higher exposures.Ortho-phthalates are used in a vast array of products and elimination will thus necessitate a multipronged regulatory approach at federal and state levels. The fact that manufacturers and retailers have already voluntarily removed ortho-phthalates from a wide range of products indicates that this goal is feasible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-695
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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