Exposure to Phthalates in Oral Medications and Supplements

Definition of Phthalates
60 Minutes and Phthalates
Documentary: The Disappearing Male

Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Dec 15. [Epub ahead of print]
Identification of Phthalates in Medications and Dietary Supplement Formulations in the U.S. and Canada.
Kelley KE, Hernández-Díaz S, Chaplin EL, Hauser R, Mitchell AA.
Background: In experimental animals, some ortho-phthalates, including di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), are demonstrated reproductive and developmental toxicants. Human studies show widespread population exposure to background levels of phthalates. Limited evidence suggests that particularly high exposure levels may result from orally ingested medicinal products containing phthalates as excipients.
Objective: The objective of this study was to identify and describe the scope of prescription (RX) and non-prescription (OTC) medicinal products and dietary supplements marketed in the United States and Canada since 1995 that include phthalates as excipients. Methods: Lists of modified-release drug products were used to identify potential drug products. Inclusion of phthalates was verified using available electronic databases, print references, published package inserts, product packages, and direct communication from manufacturers. Additional products were identified using Internet searches utilizing keywords for phthalates.
Results: Labeling information for 6 RX drug products included DBP as an excipient, while 45 labels specified the use of diethyl phthalate (DEP). Phthalate polymers with no known toxicity, hypromellose phthalate (HMP), cellulose acetate phthalate (CAP), and polyvinyl acetate phthalate (PVAP), were noted in 75 RX products. Three OTC drug and dietary supplement products listed DBP, 64 listed DEP, and over 90 indicated inclusion of polymers.
Conclusions: Numerous RX and OTC drug products and supplements from a wide range of therapeutic categories may use DBP or DEP as excipients in oral dosage forms. The potential effects of human exposure to these phthalates through medications are unknown and warrant further investigation.

Environ Health Perspect. 2004 May;112(6):751-3.
Medications as a source of human exposure to phthalates.
Hauser R, Duty S, Godfrey-Bailey L, Calafat AM.
Phthalates are a group of multifunctional chemicals used in consumer and personal care products, plastics, and medical devices. Laboratory studies show that some phthalates are reproductive and developmental toxicants. Recently, human studies have shown measurable levels of several phthalates in most of the U.S. general population. Despite their widespread use and the consistent toxicologic data on phthalates, information is limited on sources and pathways of human exposure to phthalates. One potential source of exposure is medications. The need for site-specific dosage medications has led to the use of enteric coatings that allow the release of the active ingredients into the small intestine or in the colon. The enteric coatings generally consist of various polymers that contain plasticizers, including triethyl citrate, dibutyl sebacate, and phthalates such as diethyl phthalate (DEP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). In this article we report on medications as a potential source of exposure to DBP in a man who took Asacol [active ingredient mesalamine (mesalazine)] for the treatment of ulcerative colitis. In a spot urine sample from this man collected 3 months after he started taking Asacol, the concentration of monobutyl phthalate, a DBP metabolite, was 16,868 ng/mL (6,180 micro g/g creatinine). This concentration was more than two orders of magnitude higher than the 95th percentile for males reported in the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The patient’s urinary concentrations of monoethyl phthalate (443.7 ng/mL, 162.6 micro g/g creatinine), mono-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (3.0 ng/mL, 1.1 micro g/g creatinine), and monobenzyl phthalate (9.3 ng/mL, 3.4 micro g/g creatinine) were unremarkable compared with the NHANES 1999-2000 values. Before this report, the highest estimated human exposure to DBP was more than two orders of magnitude lower than the no observable adverse effect level from animal studies. Further research is necessary to determine the proportional contribution of medications, as well as personal care and consumer products, to a person’s total phthalate burden.

Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Feb;117(2):185-9. Epub 2008 Oct 7.
Medications as a potential source of exposure to phthalates in the U.S. population.
Hernández-Díaz S, Mitchell AA, Kelley KE, Calafat AM, Hauser R.
Widespread human exposure to phthalates, some of which are developmental and reproductive toxicants in experimental animals, raises concerns about potential human health risks. Underappreciated sources of exposure include phthalates in the polymers coating some oral medications.
The objective of this study was to evaluate whether users of phthalate-containing medications have higher urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites than do nonusers.
We used publically available files from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for the years 1999-2004. For certain survey periods, participants were asked to recall use of prescription medication during the past 30 days, and for a subsample of individuals, the urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites were measured. We a priori identified medications potentially containing phthalates as inactive ingredients and then compared the mean urinary concentration of phthalate metabolites between users and nonusers of those medications.
Of the 7,999 persons with information on urinary phthalate concentrations, 6 reported using mesalamine formulations, some of which may include dibutyl phthalate (DBP); the mean urinary concentration of monobutyl phthalate, the main DBP metabolite, among these mesalamine users was 50 times higher than the mean for nonusers (2,257 microg/L vs. 46 microg/L; p < 0.0001). Users of didanosine, omeprazole, and theophylline products, some of which may contain diethyl phthalate (DEP), had mean urinary concentrations of monoethyl phthalate, the main DEP metabolite, significantly higher than the mean for nonusers.
Select medications might be a source of high exposure to some phthalates, one of which, DBP, shows adverse developmental and reproductive effects in laboratory animals. These results raise concern about potential human health risks, specifically among vulnerable segments of the general population and particularly pregnant women and children.

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  1. Heidi Barajas says

    Team FPS:

    I’m searching your blogs to locate studies/research/information re: taking supplements. I have a teen client who wants to take supplements to “bulk up.” I’m encouraging “food first” but would like to back up my recommendation with research re: the effects of supplements on the body, especially youth & teens.

    Thank you for any information you have in your resources.