Organic UV filter exposure and pubertal development: A prospective follow-up study of urban Chinese adolescents

Yanran Huang, Pengpeng Wang, Japhet Cheuk Fung Law, Yingya Zhao, Qian Wei, Yuhan Zhou, Yunhui Zhang*, Huijing Shi*, Kelvin S Y Leung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Background: UV filters, widely used in personal care and industrial products, are being found in the environment and, in humans where with limited understanding on their potential health effects, especially during puberty. Objectives: To examine the association between UV filter exposure and pubertal development in a prospective follow-up study. Methods: This study included 521 elementary and high school students from a suburban area of Shanghai. The initial study was done in October to November 2011; the follow-up study in April to May 2013. Twelve urinary organic UV filters were quantified, and the pubertal development was assessed at each study period by trained physicians using Tanner staging. We used (ordered) logistic regression model and multilevel mixed-effect (ordered) logistic regression model to assess cross-sectional and longitudinal effects between urinary concentration of five major UV filters and pubertal development of stages, onset and pace. Results: Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (EHMC) and its metabolite 4′-methoxyacetophenone (4′-MAP), two benzophenone derivatives (BP-2, BP-3) and Ethylhexyl dimethyl PABA (OD-PABA) were the most extensively detected UV filters in urine with geometric means (95% CI) in 2010 and 2012 as 1.77 (1.599, 1.956) and 2.28 (1.985, 2.622) ng/mL for EHMC; 4.55 (4.219, 4.907) and 5.26 (4.783, 5.775) ng/mL for 4′-MAP; 4.38 (4.011, 4.774) and 5.74 (5.023, 6.562) ng/mL for BP-2; 0.83 (0.760, 0.903) and 1.09 (0.967, 1.220) ng/mL for BP-3; 5.37 (4.949, 5.820) and 5.80 (5.193, 6.486) pg/mL for OD-PABA. Significant trend P-values (P < 0.05) include: EHMC and its metabolite were negatively correlated with stages of testicular volume and genital development; BP-3 was also negatively correlated with stages of testicular volume in boys, while OD-PABA positively correlated with stages of pubic hair and breast development in girls. Also, EHMC was associated with later pubertal onset of pubic hair and testicular volumes in boys, while OD-PABA correlated with earlier pubertal onset of breast development in girls. OD-PABA also significantly speeded up the progression of pubic hair and breast development in girls. Discussion: UV filters were extensively detected. Exposure to EHMC and BP-3 was significantly associated with later pubertal development in boys, and OD-PABA was associated with earlier pubertal development in girls. It demonstrates that the UV filters so widely used in personal care products and widely detected in environments are finding their way back into people where they are distorting endocrine function of adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105961
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Science(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Endocrine disruptors
  • Follow-up study
  • Organic UV filters
  • Pubertal development
  • Sexual maturation


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