Phthalic acid esters (PAEs) are classified as endocrine disruptors, but it remains unclear if they can enter the marine food-web and result in severe health effects for organisms. Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) can be chronically exposed to PAEs by ingesting plastic debris, but no information is available about PAEs levels in blood, and how these concentrations are related to diet during different life stages. This paper investigated, for the first time, six PAEs in blood of 18 wild-caught Mediterranean loggerhead turtles throughout solid-phase extraction coupled with gas chromatography-ion trap/mass spectrometry. Stable isotope analyses of carbon and nitrogen were also performed to assess the resource use pattern of loggerhead turtles. DEHP (12–63 ng mL-1) and DBP (6–57 ng mL-1) were the most frequently represented PAEs, followed by DiBP, DMP, DEP and DOP. The total PAEs concentration was highest in three turtles (124–260 ng mL-1) whereas three other turtles had concentrations below the detection limit. PAEs were clustered in three groups according to concentration in all samples: DEHP in the first group, DBP, DEP, and DiBP in the second group, and DOP and DMP in the third group. The total phthalates concentration did not differ between large-sized (96.3 ± 86.0 ng mL-1) and small-sized (67.1 ± 34.2 ng mL-1) turtles (p < 0.001). However, DMP and DEP were found only in large-sized turtles and DiBP and DBP had higher concentrations in large-sized turtles. On the other hand, DEHP and DOP were found in both small- and large-sized turtles with similar concentrations, i.e. ~ 21.0/32.0 ng mL-1 and ~ 7.1/9.9 ng mL-1, respectively. Winsored robust models indicated that δ13C is a good predictor for DBP and DiBP concentrations (significant Akaike Information criterion weight, AICwt). Our results indicate that blood is a good matrix to evaluate acute exposure to PAEs in marine turtles. Moreover, this approach is here suggested as a useful tool to explain the internal dose of PAEs in term of dietary habits (δ13C), suggesting that all marine species at high trophic levels may be particularly exposed to PAEs, despite their different dietary habitats and levels of exposure.
Blasi MF et al. Phthalate esters (PAEs) concentration pattern reflects dietary habitats (δ13C) in blood of Mediterranean loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta).” Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 239 (2022): 113619.