Abstract The associated risk of phthalate exposure, both parent compounds in the home and their metabolites in urine, to childhood allergic and respiratory morbidity, after adjusting for exposures of indoor pollutants, especially bioaerosols, was comprehensively assessed. Levels of five phthalates in settled dust from the homes of 101 children (3–9 years old) were measured, along with their corresponding urinary metabolites. Other environmental risk factors, including indoor CO2, PM2.5, formaldehyde, 1,3-β-d-glucan, endotoxin, allergen and fungal levels, were concomitantly examined. Subject’s health status was verified by pediatricians, and parents recorded observed daily symptoms of their children for the week that the home investigation visit took place. Significantly increased level of benzylbutyl phthalate, in settled dust, was associated with test case subjects (allergic or asthmatic children). Higher levels of dibutyl phthalate and its metabolites, mono-n-butyl phthalate, and mono-2-ethylhexyl phthalate were found to be the potential risk factors for the health outcomes of interest. Similarly, indoor fungal exposure remained a significant risk factor, especially for reported respiratory symptoms. The relative contribution from exposure to phthalates and indoor biocontaminants in childhood allergic and respiratory morbidity is, for the first time, quantitatively assessed and characterized.
For asthmatic and allergic children living in subtropical and highly developed environments like homes in Taiwan, controlling environmental exposure of phthalates may be viewed as equally important as avoiding indoor microbial burdens, for the management of allergy-related diseases. It is also recognized that multidisciplinary efforts will be critical in realizing the true underlying mechanisms associated with these observations.