How human activities in commercial areas contribute to phthalate ester pollution in street dust of Taiwan

Exposure to phthalate esters (PAEs) poses health risks to humans. Much research has been performed evaluating PAE levels in foodstuffs, river sediment and drinking water, but little attention has been paid to their presence in urban outdoor environments where human activities are highly intense. Here we evaluated PAE presence and distribution in street dust in Kaohsiung, the most industrialized city in Taiwan. Our results showed that PAEs were ubiquitous in fifty-two street-dust samples (levels of total PAEs 5.4–989.2 mg kg−1). Di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate was the most abundant congener observed and made up 85.0%, 79.7%, and 97.2% of the total PAEs found in industrial, residential and commercial areas, respectively. PAE levels in street dust in commercial areas (night markets) were significantly higher, suggesting a higher risk of contamination on people present in these areas (H value > χU2). In residential and commercial areas, the higher the intensity of human activity, the higher the PAE content observed. PAE content decreased progressively from the center to the outskirts of the Houjing night market, suggesting that the increased human and consumer activities inside this commercial hotspot were the main PAE source in street dust. Children had higher estimated daily intakes (DIs) than adults and dermal absorption contributed more to these levels than oral ingestion. Although all calculated DIs were below referenced danger thresholds, street dust PAEs in the area should remain an environmental concern especially since night markets play an important role in Taiwanese/Asian culture and economy. Contrary to other studies, PAEs in this study were found less related to industrial manufacturing activities but highly linked to commercial activities. These findings are relevant for future pollution prevention efforts dedicated to mitigating public exposure to PAEs.

Main findings

PAE levels in street dust are related to commercial activities. Night markets, an important commercial activity in Taiwan, were found to contribute considerably to PAE contamination in street dust.


Phthalate esters ( PAEs), Street dust, Night markets, Consumer exposure, Daily intakes, Commercial areas

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How to cite
Lee Sung-Tse, Lin Chitsan, Thanh vu CHI, Chen Yi-Cyuan, Chen Kang-Shin, Villanueva Ching-Maria (2019). How human activities in commercial areas contribute to phthalate ester pollution in street dust of Taiwan. Science Of The Total Environment. 647. 619-626.,

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