Limited studies have investigated the association between prenatal and early childhood phthalate exposures and thyroid function among children.
To investigate the association between early life phthalate exposure and thyroid function among school-age children, considering both prenatal and early childhood exposures, using longitudinal data from an established prospective cohort.
We measured urinary phthalate metabolite levels during pregnancy and at 2, 4, and 6 years of age and conducted thyroid function tests at 6 years of age. We assessed the associations between phthalate metabolite levels and thyroid function using linear regression and Bayesian kernel machine regression (BKMR) models (n = 492).
In linear regression models, a doubling of urinary mono-n-butyl phthalate (MnBP) levels, measured during pregnancy and at 4 years of age, was associated with lower thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels at 6 years of age (-5.0%, 95% confidence interval [CI]: -8.8%, -1.0% and -5.7%, 95% CI: -9.7%, -1.5%, respectively). A similar association was found between mono-(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate (MEOHP) levels at 4 years of age and TSH levels at 6 years of age (-5.5%, 95% CI: -9.7%, -1.1%). Urinary mono-(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate (MEHHP) (2.3%, 95% CI: 0.1%, 4.5%) and MEOHP levels at 2 years of age (2.2%, 95% CI: 0.1%, 4.4%) and mono-2-ethyl-5-carboxypentyl phthalate (1.4%, 95% CI: 0.1%, 2.7%) and mono-benzyl phthalate levels at 6 years of age (1.1%, 95% CI: 0.4%, 1.9%) were associated with higher triiodothyronine (T3) levels at 6 years of age. Urinary MnBP during pregnancy, MEHHP, MEOHP, and MnBP at 4 years of age were also associated with lower free thyroxine (fT4) × TSH. In BKMR models, urinary MnBP levels during pregnancy were associated with lower TSH levels and fT4 × TSH (both posterior inclusion probabilities: 0.99).
Our findings suggest that early life phthalate exposure influences subsequent thyroid function. However, the results should be interpreted cautiously, because a single spot urine sample was used to quantify the phthalate exposures at each time point.
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