The concentrations of six priority phthalic acid esters (PAEs) in intensively managed suburban vegetable soils in Nanjing, east China, were analyzed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The total PAE concentrations in the soils ranged widely from 0.15 to 9.68 mg kg(-1) with a median value of 1.70 mg kg(-1), and di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP), bis-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP) were the most abundant phthalate esters. Soil PAE concentrations depended on the mode of use of plastic film in which PAEs were incorporated as plasticizing agents and both the plastic film and poultry manure appeared to be important sources of soil PAEs. Vegetables in rotation with flooded rice led to lower concentrations of PAEs in soil. The results indicate that agricultural plastic film can be an important source of soil PAE contamination and further research is required to fully elucidate the mechanisms of PAE contamination of intensive agricultural soils with different use modes of use of plastic film.