Tox Spotlight: Effect of DBP exposure on reproductive function

Jan. 17, 2024

Center member’s research highlighted by Toxicological Sciences

Store aisle with personal care products and brunette

Toxicological Sciences has showcased a publication by center member Zelieann Craig, PhD, in their featured Tox Spotlight! Craig’s study found that exposure to di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) – a common ingredient in many personal care products and medications – disrupts follicular reproductive cycles by interfering with the hormone signaling in the ovary responsible for growth, development, and repair. For this reason, exposure to DBP could ultimately lead to reduced fertility and decreased egg number and quality in women.

What are phthalates, and where are they found?

Phthalates (including DBP) are chemicals used in many different products that people use every single day, including cosmetics, medications, food packaging and personal care products like shampoo. In this study, researchers specifically studied di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), which is commonly found in plastic.

Why are phthalates a risk to public health?

Phthalates can enter the body through ingestion, inhalation, or contact with skin. These chemicals are believed to interact and interfere with your body’s endocrine system, which is important for regulating normal bodily functions. Research has linked phthalates to various human health issues including asthma, cancer and reproductive problems in women.

The widespread use of phthalates in consumer products increases the likelihood of exposure and their absorption by the human body. In fact, as manufacturers have increased their reliance on phthalates in their products over the years, the corresponding rise in exposure presents the population with a higher risk of developing health conditions. As such, it is important for studies like this to continue investigating and raising awareness about the potential public health risks associated with phthalate exposure.

What was the purpose of this study?

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) on the IGF signaling pathway, which is a cellular communication pathway that regulates the growth, development, and function of various physiological processes. In the ovaries, the IGF pathway is responsible for proper follicle growth and egg development, making it an essential aspect of female reproduction.  Results of Dr. Craig’s study showed reduced follicle numbers with increased DBP exposure, signifying a potential adverse impact on female fertility.

This study provides new insights into how DBP impacts the cellular mechanisms of women’s reproductive function, providing an evidence-based foundation to raise awareness about how excessive phthalate use and exposure can impact essential bodily functions.

Read the full research article