The Science of the total environment : 724, 138281.
In the largest developing country, China, plastic has become a serious environmental issue because of its overuse and non-treatment. In fact, plasticizers, such as phthalate esters (PAEs), are more toxic than plastic, and their global awareness is rising. To determine the response of sensitive PAE congeners to the anthropogenic activities in a typical lake ecosystem of China, in the present study, 12 PAEs in the water and the suspended particulate matter (SPM) phases of 46 lakes in China were measured. The concentrations of all the Σ12 PAEs in water and SPM phases ranged from 3.647 to 65.618 μg/L and 0.175 to 10.921 μg/L, respectively. Di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) was the predominant PAEs in the water phase, whereas diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP), DnBP, and bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) were the dominating PAEs in the SPM phase. Forty-six lakes were divided into four groups based on the anthropogenic activity intensities. The PAEs in both the water and SPM phases had increasing tendency along the human activity gradient. DIBP appears to be a sensitive PAE indicator that could distinguish the lake regions with different human industrial and agricultural activities. Dimethyl phthalate (DMP) and diethyl phthalate (DEP) are intensely affected by industrial development. DnBP and DEHP were positively correlated with agricultural activities, including the use of films and pesticides. It is suggested to control the addition and usage of PAEs in agricultural activities and improve their removal rates in industrial wastewater to reduce the PAE pollution in the water bodies in the environment management of China.