Inhalation intake and skin uptake: Major routes of phthalates found in human blood

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, January 2019, Volume 2, #42

There is a rise in the global market size of cosmetic and personal care products. This fact is documented in the Beauty and Personal Care Products Market Analysis Report published in September 2018. The market size is estimated to worth $716.6 Billion. This is a huge market and it means the number of cosmetic and personal care products around us will continue to rise. Examples of cosmetic and personal care products are skin care, hair care, makeup or colour cosmetic, deodorants/fragrances products, etc. The concern with the rise is that many of these cosmetic and personal care products contain phthalates, especially in countries where they are not regulated. Phthalates are the example of semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs).

Commonly found phthalates in cosmetic and personal care products, as reported in the literature, include diethyl phthalate (DEP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), diisobutyl phthalate (DiBP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). Evidences in the literature suggest that these phthalates could cause reproductive, pubertal or hormone developmental, and respiratory – airway obstruction and lung function – health problems. Reproductive health problems could include endometriosis (presence of uterine lining in other human organs), pregnancy complications, poor semen quality, prenatal mortality, reduced growth and birth weight, etc.

The use of a mask as a mitigating strategy for preventing inhalation of the phthalates in indoor air may not be enough to significantly reduce the phthalates concentrations in the blood of an exposed human. There are several studies documenting that skin (dermal) uptake could serve as a major route of phthalates found in human blood just like inhalation intake. This means that the phthalates concentrations in indoor air should be reduced as much as possible. In as much as exposure is reduced, the effect of inhalation intake and skin uptake will be reduced. How to reduce the exposure?

Avoiding the use of cosmetic and personal care products containing phthalates as much as possible is the best strategy. Good ventilation and filtration practices can also be effective in reducing exposure to phthalates in indoor air. People working in factories where the cosmetic and personal care products containing phthalates are produced are highly vulnerable. People working, e.g. salon, or living in places where these products are actively used are also vulnerable. The duration of exposure to phthalates increases vulnerability and the risk of developing the adverse health effects attributed to them.

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Do you want to know more about this topic? Read Alfonso-Garrido et al. (2018), Hauser and Calafat (2005) and Koniecki et al. (2011).

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