Posts by Category: phthalates



Plasticisers are used to make a material like PVC softer and more flexible.

They are small molecules that can dissolve into liquids that come into contact with them.

Phthalates are a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and potential EDCs are mostly man-made, found in various materials such as pesticides, metals, additives or contaminants in food, and personal care products. EDCs have been suspected to be associated with altered reproductive function in males and females; increased incidence of breast cancer, abnormal growth patterns and neurodevelopmental delays in children, as well as changes in immune function. World Health Organisation

Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate is widely used as a plasticizer in flexible vinyl products. Plastics may contain from 1 to 40% di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate by weight and are used in consumer products such as
  • imitation leather,
  • rainwear,
  • footwear,
  • upholstery,
  • flooring,
  • wire and cabels,
  • tablecloths,
  • shower curtains,
  • food packaging materials,  
  • children’toys.
Poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC) containing di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate is also used for tubing and containers for blood products and transfusions.
Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate is also used as a hydraulic fluid and as a dielectric fluid (a non-conductor of electric current) in electrical capacitors (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 1989).
  • Other uses are in
  • rubbing alcohol,
  • liquid detergents,
  • decorative inks,
  • munitions,
  • industrial and lubricating oils and defoaming agents during paper and paperboard manufacture (Environmental Protection Agency, 1998)

Because phthalate plasticizers are not chemically bound to PVC, they can easily leach and evaporate into food or the atmosphere. Phthalate exposure can be through direct use or by indirect means through leaching and general environmental contamination. Diet is believed to be the main source of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and other phthalates in the general population. Fatty foods such as milk, butter, and meats are a major source.  Wikkipedia

“ A 2011 study demonstrated that just a three-day period of limiting intake of packaged foods decreased by half the concentrations of DEHP found in urine (Rudel, 2011)”

Some studies also claim that phthalates are readily absorbed through the skin (Janjua, 2008) and can also enter the body through inhalation or medical injection procedures (Schettler, 2005).

When plastic toys are chewed by a child the plasticiser may be dissolved by the saliva of the child and possibly ingested.

Phthalates have been found in indoor air and dust (Rudel, 2001) and in human urine and blood samples from children, adolescents and adults (Calafat, 2011; Frederiksen, 2011; Kato, 2003; Rudel, 2011).

They are also found in breast milk.

Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate released into air can be carried for long distances in the troposphere and it has been detected over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; wash-out by rain appears to be a significant removal process (Atlas & Giam, 1981; Giam

Are they dangerous?

In a National Institutes of Health (NIH) report published in 2000, di-2-ehtylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), commonly found in PVC plastics, was found reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

The breast cancer fund have no doubts that it causes cancer and the reports they quote all reinforce that view

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified DEHP as non-carcinogenic to humans.

How much is out there?

Production of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate in the United States increased during the 1980s, from approximately 114 000 tonnes in 1982 to over 130 000 tonnes in 1986 (Environmental Protection Agency, 1998).
In 1994, production of di(2- ethylhexyl) phthalate in the United States was 117 500 tonnes; production in Japan in 1995 was 298 000 tonnes; production in Taiwan in 1995 was 207 000 tonnes, down from 241 000 tonnes in 1994 (Anon., 1996).
The information in this post comes from
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