chemical information
CAS RN:

00117-81-7

Chemical Class:

Phthalates

Found in these people:

Sharyle Patton, Lexi Rome, Andrea Martin, Bill Moyers, Charlotte Brody, Lucy Waletsky, Davis Baltz

Found in these locations:

Bolinas, CA; Mill Valley, CA; Sausalito, CA; NJ, USA; Round Hill, VA; Pleasantville, NY; Berkeley, CA


Summary

Found within many consumer products, phthalates are industrial plasticizers that impart flexibility and resilience to plastic, among other uses. Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) is used in soft plastic, especially polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and is also present in clear food wrap, personal care products, detergents and soaps, medical devices, and pesticides (EWG 2003; Wolff 2007).

Exposure to DEHP occurs through direct use of products containing these chemicals, consumption of foods wrapped in products containing these chemicals, and through inhalation of air contaminated with these chemicals (CDC 2005).

In September 2000, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted the first accurate measurements of human phthalate exposures, and reported finding phthalates in every one of 289 people tested, at surprisingly high levels (Blount 2000). The latest exposure study from CDC indicates that DEHP is a widespread contaminant of the human body (CDC 2005). Measurements DEHP metabolites in the urine of over 2,500 Americans indicate that women are slightly more exposed than men, and younger children (ages 6-11) are more exposed than older children (ages 12-19) and adults (CDC 2005).

In a recent study of girls age 6 to 8, this particular phthalate metabolite was found in 85 of 90 girls tested (Wolff 2007). The European Union has banned use of DEHP and other phthalates in cosmetics and other consumer products, in response to concerns about exposure as well as toxicity.

Phthalates are potent toxins to the male reproductive system. In humans, high levels of DEHP metabolites in adult males are associated with reduced levels of sperm motility (Duty 2004). In utero exposure to high levels of other phthalate metabolites are associated with marked differences in the reproductive systems of baby boys (Swan 2005); the exposure levels associated with these health effects were not extreme, but rather were typical for about one-quarter of all U.S. women (Marsee 2006). Further research has documented decreased testosterone levels among baby boys exposed to high levels of phthalates in their mother's breast milk (Main 2006).

In laboratory animals, fetal exposure to DEHP causes significant developmental toxicity, especially of the male reproductive system (CERHR 2000). In adult animals, DEHP causes cancer and toxicity to the reproductive organs, adrenal, liver, and kidney (CERHR 2000; ACGIH 2004).

A National Toxicology Program (NTP) expert panel recently indicated that DEHP exposures might be higher in infants and toddlers, and up to 2-3 orders of magnitude higher in infants undergoing intensive therapeutic interventions. Exposures in these infants "can approach toxic doses in rodents, which causes the Panel serious concern that exposure may adversely affect male reproductive tract development" (CERHR 2000).

Further epidemiological studies indicate phthalates may produce non-reproductive health effects in people. Increased levels of mEHP, the primary breakdown product of DEHP, were associated with alterations in thyroid hormone levels (Meeker 2007). In another study of 400 children, half with allergies, high levels of DEHP in dust were associated with asthma (Bornehag 2004). A more recent study of 100 children linked DEHP concentrations in indoor dust to wheezing (Kolarik 2008).




Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate

Used in soft plastics like PVC. Associated with male reproductive system toxicity in people and animals.

Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate has been found in 7 of the 9 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.


Other health concerns for Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (References)

health concern or target organ weight of evidence
Respiratory systemunknown
Immune system (including sensitization and allergies)unknown


Results for Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate

in blood serum (lipid weight)

Showing results from EWG/Commonweal Study #1, industrial chemicals and pesticides in adults

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 79.6 ug/g (lipid weight) in blood serum
  • found in 7 of 9 people in the group
0 ug/g (lipid weight) in blood serum 905


Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate results


Detailed toxicity classifications (References)

classification governing entity/references
Respiratory system toxicity - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedBornehag, C. G., Sundell J., Weschler, C.J., Sigsgaard, T., Lundgren, B., Hasselgren, M., Hgerhed-Engman, L. (2004). "The Association between Asthma and Allergic Symptoms in Children and Phthalates in House Dust: A Nested Case-Control Study." Environ Health Perspect 112: 5
Immune system toxicity - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedBornehag, C. G., Sundell J., Weschler, C.J., Sigsgaard, T., Lundgren, B., Hasselgren, M., Hgerhed-Engman, L. (2004). "The Association between Asthma and Allergic Symptoms in Children and Phthalates in House Dust: A Nested Case-Control Study." Environ Health Perspect 112: 5