Do High Phthalates Levels Increase Risk of Miscarriage? Interview with:
Dr. Jianying Hu
Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes
College of Urban and Environmental Sciences
Peking University, Beijing People’s Republic of China 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Early pregnancy loss or first-trimester miscarriage is the most common complication of human reproduction, and the miscarriage incidence is increasing around the world in the recent decades. Though there are many causes for miscarriage, approximately 40% of early pregnancy loss remains unexplained. Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) has been considering one of major risk factor to affect female reproduction. Of these EDCs related to reproductive toxicity, phthalates is of concern due to their wide usage and contamination in environment, and the reproductive toxicity in the female mouse.

Our study found that the levels of phthalates in the women who underwent miscarriage were statistically significantly high, and the risk of clinical pregnancy loss was associated with urinary concentration of phthalate metabolites.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Women, who are planning to have a baby, avoid exposure to phthalates as much as possible. Phthalates are widely used in personal care products, such as body lotions, gels and shampoo and approved for uses in food packaging and processing materials that are in contact with food, such as films and plastic bags. Phthalates can also be used in residential building materials such as floorings, paints, carpet backings, wallpaper, and in PVC products.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: While previous researches have reported that the main exposure to phthalates for general population is food in various countries, the exposure assessment has not well done. In the future study, the contributions from various pathways (air, water, food, and dermal contact) to total exposure should be further clarified.

Despite the epidemiological and animal studies all indicate phthalates may cause the pregnancy loss, the exact mechanism has not been fully clarified up to date. The early embryonic development involves the complicated interactions between the maternal body and the conceptus. Since the dysfunction of the maternal endocrinal environment, embryonic quality or invasion of placental trophoblast into uterine tissue and vessels could induce the pregnancy loss, overall mechanism study is necessary.


Di Mu, Fumei Gao, Zhanlan Fan, Huan Shen, Hui Peng, Jianying Hu.Levels of Phthalate Metabolites in Urine of Pregnant Women and Risk of Clinical Pregnancy Loss. Environmental Science & Technology, 2015; 49 (17): 10651 DOI: 1021/acs.est.5b02617

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Dr. Jianying Hu (2015). Do High Phthalates Levels Increase Risk of Miscarriage?