chemical information


Chemical Class:


Found in these people:

Sara Corbett, May, Participant #1, Participant #10, Fred Gellert, Adelaide Gomer, Ann Hunter-Welborn, Jesse Johnson, Winsome McIntosh, Judi Shils, Participant #18, Lynde Uihlein, Participant #2, Participant #20, Jessica Welborn, Alicia Wittink, Irene Crowe, Martha Davis, Emily Sayrs, Participant #6, Anonymous Adult RN7, Anonymous Teen 22, Anonymous Adult, Jessica Assaf, Erin Schrode, Asta Haman-Dicko, Hope Atkins, Rizza Alcaria, Alex Wells, Anonymous Teen 9, Anonymous Teen 20, Emma Spencer, Christa Heffron, Natalie Klapper, Sydney Blankers, Anonymous Teen 11, Sarah Oswald, Caroline Burlingame, Laurie Mittelmann, Monica Paulson, Donalin Cazeau, Jenny Gilbertson, Anonymous Teen 21, Anonymous Adult 3, Anonymous Adult 4, Anonymous Adult 6, Anonymous Adult 7, Anonymous Adult 9, Anonymous Adult 12, Anonymous Adult 13, Anonymous Adult 11, Anonymous Adult 14, Anonymous Adult 15, Anonymous Adult 21

Found in these locations:

NY, USA; CA, USA; Belvedere, CA; Ithaca, NY; Encinitas, CA; New York, NY; Washington, DC; Ross, CA; VA, USA; Milwaukee, WI; CO, USA; San Francisco, CA; Littleton, CO; MD, USA; San Rafael, CA; San Leandro, CA; Tuolumne, CA; Manteca, CA; Austin, TX; Winchester, MA; Portland, OR; Belmont, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Palm Beach Gardens, FL; Langhorne, PA; North Caldwell, NJ; University Place, WA; Dorchester, MA; Novato, CA; Newton, MA; Lamont, FL; Atlanta, GA; Mountain View, CA; Stanford, CA; Palo Alto, CA; Berkeley, CA

Exposure routes:

Breakdown product of chemical used in cosmetics, paint, plastic, food packaging, and other common consumer products.


Found within many consumer products, phthalates are industrial plasticizers that impart flexibility and resilience to plastic, among other uses. Mono-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (mEHP) is a metabolite, or breakdown product, of bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), used in soft plastic including tubing, especially polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and also sometimes present in clear food wrap, personal care products, detergents and soaps, and pesticides (EWG 2003; Wolff 2007).

Exposure to DEHP occurs through direct use of products containing this chemical, consumption of foods wrapped in products containing this chemical, and through inhalation of air contaminated with this chemical (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 mEHP is a widespread contaminant of the human body (CDC 2005). Measurements of mEHP 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 spearheaded by Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 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 mEHP 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 were associated with alterations in thyroid hormone levels (Meeker 2007). In another study of 400 children, half with allergies, high levels of the parent compound of mEHP, 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).


Breakdown product of bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), used in plastics. Linked to male reproductive issues in people and animals.

Mono-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate has been found in 64 of the 74 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies. It has also been found in 7,143 of the 8,020 people tested in CDC biomonitoring studies.

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

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

Results for Mono-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate

in urine

Showing results from EWG/Commonweal Study #7, consumer product chemicals in adults and teens, EWG Study #6, consumer product chemicals in mothers and daughters, EWG Study #8, chemicals in mother and 2 children, EWG Study #10, cosmetic chemicals in teens, Dateline NBC Families, Dateline NBC Families, Pets Project

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 8.45 ug/g creatinine in urine
  • found in 64 of 74 people in the group

CDC biomonitoring results

  • geometric mean: 2.96 ug/g creatinine in urine
  • found in 7143 of 8020 people in the group
ug/g creatinine in urine 829

Mono-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate results

Detailed toxicity classifications (References)

classification governing entity/references
Immune system toxicity - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedBornehag, C. G., Sundell J., Weschler, C.J., Sigsgaard, T., Lundgren, B., Hasselgren, M., Hägerhed-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
Respiratory system toxicity - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedBornehag, C. G., Sundell J., Weschler, C.J., Sigsgaard, T., Lundgren, B., Hasselgren, M., Hägerhed-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