Phthalic Acid Esters as Pervasive Emerging Pollutants in the Environment and Their Role in Threatening Food Security and Human Health: A Review

Document Type : Review


1 Department of Soil Science, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Tehran, Karaj, Iran.

2 Department of Food Science and Technology, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Tehran, Karaj, Iran.

3 Department of Environmental Science, Lahijan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Lahijan, Iran


Plasticizers are compounds that are widely used to increase the softness of plastic compounds and related derivatives.The largest group of emollients in the world are phthalic acid esters. These compounds consumption is about 10 million tons per year in the world, which covers an annual turnover of $ 20000 million. These compounds are semi-volatile and have carcinogenic, mutagenic, and endocrine-disrupting properties. In this study, phthalic acid ester types and structures, entry paths into different ecosystems and the human body, measurement methods in environmental samples, and studies conducted in the world and Iran are introduced. Due to the weak bond between these compounds and plastics, they can enter the environment and the human food chain easily, and cause many diseases such as breast, thyroid, and testicular cancer, reproductive problems, obesity, asthma, diabetes, and etc. Regarding these properties, the phthalic acid esters are concluded in the list of most dangerous pollutants of the U.S.EPA, China, and the European Union. Unfortunately, very little research has been performed in this field in Iran. Research in the sediments of Anzali wetland, Chabahar Bay water, and the soil downstream Saravan landfill have shown that the concentration of phthalic acid esters, especially diethyl hexyl phthalate (the most widely used plasticizer in the world) has gone beyound the environmental risk limit of these pollutants. It is hoped that the information in this review will help to understand these compounds better and investigating their dangers in Iran environment.


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