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Effects and mechanisms of phthalates’ action on neurological processes and neural health: a literature review


During the period of mass industrial production of plastic products, the quality of human health has decreased significantly, especially in children’s neurodevelopmental disorders. Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can induce neurological disorders. This review aims to compile evidence concerning the associations between neurological disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, decreased masculine behavior, and phthalate exposure. Phthalates dysregulate the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal, adrenal, and thyroid axis, which is crucial for the neurodevelopmental process. Phthalates interfere with nuclear receptors in various neural structures involved in controlling brain functions and the onset of neurological disorders at the intracellular level. It is critical to increase the current knowledge concerning phthalates’ toxicity mechanism to comprehend their harmful effect on human health.

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Adrenocorticotropic hormone


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder


Autism spectrum disorders


Benzylbutyl phthalate


Corticotropin-releasing hormone


Corticosteroid-binding globulin


Dibutyl phthalate


Dicyclohexyl phthalate


Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate


Diethyl phthalate


Di-iso-butyl phthalate


Di-iso-decyl phthalate


Di-iso-nonyl phthalate


Dimethyl phthalate


Di-n-butyl phthalate


Di-n-octyl phthalate


Endocrine-disrupting chemical


Estrogen receptor


Follicle-stimulating hormone


Free triiodothyronine


Free thyroxine


Gonadotropin-releasing hormone


Glucocorticoid receptor


High-molecular-weight phthalate


Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis


Hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis


Hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid axis


Luteinizing hormone


Low molecular weight phthalates


Monobutyl phthalate


Monobenzyl phthalate


Mono-(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate


Mental developmental index


Mono(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate


Mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate


Monoethyl phthalate


Mono-(2-ethyl-5-carboxypentyl) phthalate


Mono(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate


Mono-iso-butyl phthalate


Mono-n-butyl phthalate


Natrium iodide symporter


Nuclear receptor


Psychomotor developmental index


Sex hormone-binding globulin






Total triiodothyronine


Total thyroxine


Thyroxine-binding globulin


Thyroid peroxidase


Thyroid receptor


Thyroid-releasing hormone


Thyroid-stimulating hormone




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This study was supported by the project of the Ministry of Health of SR [2016/9-UKFN-1].

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Hlisníková, H., Petrovičová, I., Kolena, B. et al. Effects and mechanisms of phthalates’ action on neurological processes and neural health: a literature review. Pharmacol. Rep 73, 386–404 (2021).

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  • Phthalate
  • Endocrine disruptor
  • Nervous system
  • Hormone
  • Nuclear receptor