A critical analysis of the biological impacts of plasticizers on wildlife

J. Oehlmann, U. Schulte-Oehlmann, W. Kloas, O. Jagnytsch, I. Lutz, Kresten Ole Kusk, L. Wollenberger, E.M. Santos, G.C. Paull, K.J.W. van Look, C.R. Tyler

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    This review provides a critical analysis of the biological effects of the most widely used plasticizers, including dibutyl phthalate, diethylhexyl phthalate, dimethyl phthalate, butyl benzyl phthalate and bisphenol A (BPA), on wildlife, with a focus on annelids ( both aquatic and terrestrial), molluscs, crustaceans, insects, fish and amphibians. Moreover, the paper provides novel data on the biological effects of some of these plasticizers in invertebrates, fish and amphibians. Phthalates and BPA have been shown to affect reproduction in all studied animal groups, to impair development in crustaceans and amphibians and to induce genetic aberrations. Molluscs, crustaceans and amphibians appear to be especially sensitive to these compounds, and biological effects are observed at environmentally relevant exposures in the low ng l(-1) to mg l(-1) range. In contrast, most effects in fish ( except for disturbance in spermatogenesis) occur at higher concentrations. Most plasticizers appear to act by interfering with the functioning of various hormone systems, but some phthalates have wider pathways of disruption. Effect concentrations of plasticizers in laboratory experiments coincide with measured environmental concentrations, and thus there is a very real potential for effects of these chemicals on some wildlife populations. The most striking gaps in our current knowledge on the impacts of plasticizers on wildlife are the lack of data for long-term exposures to environmentally relevant concentrations and their ecotoxicity when part of complex mixtures. Furthermore, the hazard of plasticizers has been investigated in annelids, molluscs and arthropods only, and given the sensitivity of some invertebrates, effects assessments are warranted in other invertebrate phyla.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1526
    Pages (from-to)2047-2062
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • bisphenol A
    • endocrine disruption
    • diethylhexyl phthalate
    • butyl benzyl phthalate
    • dimethyl phthalate
    • dibutyl phthalate


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