AbstractPhthalate esters (PEs) are a class of synthetic chemicals that have been widely used as plasticizers in industrial products and households. The occurrence of PEs in the marine environment has been a concern for many years because of their adverse impacts on marine organisms and human health. In this study, six major PEs, i.e. diethyl phthalate (DEP), di‑isobutyl phthalate (DiBP), di‑n‑butyl phthalate (DnBP), benzylbutyl phthalate (BBP), dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP) and di‑(2‑ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), were analyzed in sediment samples collected in the Bohai and Yellow seas. The sum concentrations of the six PEs ranged from 1.4 to 24.6 ng/g and the average was 9.1 ng/g. The highest concentrations of PEs in the sediment samples were those of DEHP with a median concentration of 3.77 ng/g, followed by DiBP (median, 1.60 ng/g), DnBP (0.91 ng/g), DEP (0.32 ng/g), BBP (0.03 ng/g) and DCHP (0.01 ng/g). Generally, concentrations of PEs in the Bohai Sea are higher than those in the Yellow Sea. The varying spatial distributions of the individual PEs can be the result of discharge sources, regional ocean circulation patterns, and mud areas in the Bohai and Yellow seas. Significant positive correlations were found between total organic carbon content and the concentrations of DiBP, DnBP, and DEHP. It is estimated that the inventories of the ∑6PEs were 20.73 tons in the Bohai Sea and 65.87 tons in the Yellow Sea. Both riverine discharge and atmospheric deposition are major input sources for the PE sedimentation, while massive plastic litter and microplastics sinking to the ocean floor can directly release PEs into sediment. This study provides an appropriate data set for the assessment of the risk of PEs to the marine ecosystem.