By: Walter Crinnion, ND

**From the November, 2013 edition of “CrinnionOpinion

A recent article in the National Institue of Envrironmental Health Studies (NIEHS) journal ‘Environmental Health Perspectives’ looked at phthalate exposures and the rates of allergy in the U.S. population. The researchers utilized the NHANES data from 2005 and 2006 which included urinary phthalate samples of 2,325 individuals, as well as information on allergy. For allergen sensitization, the researchers kept track of all the participants who had a positive IGE skin for reactions to animal dander, various molds, grasses, weeds, foods and trees. They also check them for self-reported allergy symptoms, which included wheezing, asthma, hay fever, allergy, itchy rash and rhinitis in the past year.

In the participants urine, the researchers looked  for both low and high molecular weight phthalates. The most commonly found low molecular weight phthalate was diethyl phthalate (DEP) which is found in primarily in cosmetics. The most common high molecular weight phthalates were diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) commonly found in food packaging and butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) from vinyl flooring and other indoor building materials.

Previous studies have associated phthalates with wheezing, asthma and allergy among both children and adults . Of those, the high molecular weight phthalates have been shown to alter the immune response in Vivo to increased allergic reactivity due to a suppression of T-helper 1 and an increase in T-helper 2 immune activity.

DEHP has already been shown to be an adjuvant in allergic disorders helping allergies to occur . Now, of the adults tested in this study, 44% of them had at least one positive IGE test result, while only 35% of them manifested rhinitis. An interesting finding as one might expect that all of those with an IgE-mediated, type 1 allergy would have histamine related symptoms such as rhinitis. This lack of consistency was further confirmed when only 22% reported that they had any allergy, and only 16.6% had wheezing. The children had a slightly higher finding on IgE with 46% of them showing a positive finding. Twenty-eight percent of the children had rhinitis, while eighteen percent reported that they had allergy, and eleven percent reported having wheezing problems. So, in both children and adults, what we consider to be “classic” allergic signs and symptoms cannot be relied upon to spot all persons who have an atopic condition.

The high molecular weight phthalate, mono-benzyl phthalate (from flooring) was higher than DEHP from food. The researchers reported the total level of DEHP that included all of the various end-metabolites of this compound. The mono-benzyl phthalates also had the greatest association with allergy. Those with higher levels of mono-benzyl phthalate had a 46% greater likelihood of asthma, a 78% greater likelihood of wheezing, a 68% greater likelihood of hay fever, a 24% greater likelihood of rhinitis. All of which were statistically significant.

DEHP was only associated with 16% increased risk for asthma and a 23% increased risk for wheezing. This us that this phthalate/allergy connection is not associated with the phthalates from the food or cosmetics. Instead, it is the phthalates from building materials that are causing this issue. Knowing that the greatest concentration of phthalates in the home air is found in the dust, one can greatly reduce this exposure vector by removing phthalate –containing items from the home. Then utilize high quality pleated air filters in your furnace, having the HVAC ducts vacuumed out by a professional service and having a high-quality air purifier in the home.



Hoppin J, Jaramillo R, London S, Bertelsen R, et al. phthalate exposure and allergy in the U.S. population: results from NHANES 2005-2006. Environ Health Perspect 2013;121:1129-1134.

Bornehag CG, Nanberg E. Phthalate exposure and asthma in children. Int j Androl 2010;33:333-345.

Kimber I, Dearman RJ. An assessment of the ability of phthalates to influence immune and allergic responses. Toxicology 2010;271:73-82.Assagioli, R. (1965).