Associations of Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates with Measures of Cognition in 4.5-Month-Old Infants

Francheska M. Merced-Nieves, Kelsey L. C. Dzwilewski, Andrea Aguiar, Salma Musaad, Susan A. Korrick, Susan L. Schantz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The association of prenatal phthalate exposure with physical reasoning was assessed in 159 (78 female; 81 male) 4.5-month-old infants from a prospective cohort. Phthalate metabolites were quantified in urine from 16–18 gestational weeks and a pool of five urines from across pregnancy. Infants’ looking times to physically impossible and possible events were recorded via infrared eye-tracking. Infants that recognize that one of the events is impossible will look at that event longer. Associations of phthalate biomarkers with looking time differences (impossible–possible) were adjusted for maternal age, infant sex, and order of event presentation, and effect modification by infant sex was assessed. Each interquartile range (IQR) increase of monoethyl phthalate in the pooled sample was associated with females’ increased looking time (β = 1.0; 95%CI = 0.3, 1.7 s) to the impossible event. However, for males, an IQR increase in monoethyl phthalate at 16–18 weeks (β = −2.5; 95%CI = −4.4,−0.6 s), the sum of di(isononyl) phthalate metabolites in the pooled sample (β = −1.0; 95%CI = −1.8, −0.1 s), and the sum of all phthalate metabolites in both samples (β = −2.3; 95%CI = −4.4, −0.2 s) were associated with increased looking to the possible event, suggesting that higher prenatal phthalate exposure is associated with poorer physical reasoning in male infants.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1838
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2 2021


  • Neurodevelopment
  • Phthalates
  • Sexually dimorphic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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