Soil contamination and sources of phthalates and its health risk in China: A review

Huixiong LÜ, Ce-Hui MO, Hai-Ming ZHAO, Lei XIANG, Athanasios KATSOYIANNIS, Yan-Wen LI, Quan-Ying CAI, Ming Hung WONG

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249 Citations (Scopus)


Phthalates (PAEs) are extensively used as plasticizers and constitute one of the most frequently detected organic contaminants in the environment. With the deterioration of eco-environment in China during the past three decades, many studies on PAE occurrence in soils and their risk assessments have been conducted which allow us to carry out a fairly comprehensive assessment of soil PAE contamination on a nation-wide scale. This review combines the updated information available associated with PAE current levels, distribution patterns (including urban soil, rural or agricultural soil, seasonal and vertical variations), potential sources, and human health exposure. The levels of PAEs in soils of China are generally at the high end of the global range, and higher than the grade II limits of the Environmental Quality Standard for soil in China. The most abundant compounds, di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) and di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), display obvious spatial distribution in different provinces. It is noted that urbanization and industrialization, application of plastic film (especially plastic film mulching in agricultural soil) and fertilizer are the major sources of PAEs in soil. Uptake of PAEs by crops, and human exposure to PAEs via ingestion of soil and vegetables are reviewed, with scientific gaps highlighted. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-429
JournalEnvironmental Research
Early online dateMar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


Lü, H., Mo, C.-H., Zhao, H.-M., Xiang, L., Katsoyiannis, A., Li, Y.-W., . . . Wong, M.-H. (2018). Soil contamination and sources of phthalates and its health risk in China: A review. Environmental Research, 164, 417-429. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.03.013


  • Phthalic acid esters
  • Soil pollution
  • Spatial distribution
  • Uptake
  • Human exposure


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