Some phthalates are developmental and reproductive toxicants in animals. Exposure to phthalates is considered to be potentially harmful to human health as well. Based on a comprehensive literature research, we present an overview of the sources of human phthalate exposure and results of exposure assessments with special focus on human biomonitoring data. Among the general population, there is widespread exposure to a number of phthalates. Foodstuff is the major source of phthalate exposure, particularly for the long-chain phthalates such as di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate. For short-chain phthalates such as di-n-butyl-phthalate, additional pathways are of relevance. In general, children are exposed to higher phthalate doses than adults. Especially, high exposures can occur through some medications or medical devices. By comparing exposure data with existing limit values, one can also assess the risks associated with exposure to phthalates. Within the general population, some individuals exceed tolerable daily intake values for one or more phthalates. In high exposure groups, (intensive medical care, medications) tolerable daily intake transgressions can be substantial. Recent findings from animal studies suggest that a cumulative risk assessment for phthalates is warranted, and a cumulative exposure assessment to phthalates via human biomonitoring is a major step into this direction. Copyright © 2011 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.