chemical information


Chemical Class:


Chemical SubClass


Manufacturing/Use Status

there are no restrictions on the production/use in the U.S.

Found in these people:

Michael Lerner, Sharyle Patton, Charlotte Brody, Anonymous Adult 16

Found in these locations:

Bolinas, CA; Round Hill, VA; San Francisco, CA

Exposure routes:

Detergents, dyes, textiles, dry cleaning, pesticides, paints and coatings, plastics, floor polish.


Octylphenols are widely used industrial surfactants, used in hundreds of commercial products. These include industrial dyes, pulp and paper manufacturing, textiles, dry cleaning, metal working fluids, defoamers, pesticides, paints and coatings, oilfield chemicals, plastics, floor polish and wax emulsions. "[Dow's Octylphenol products] are used in almost every type of liquid, paste, and powdered cleaning compound, ranging from heavy-duty industrial products to gentle detergents" (Dow 1995-2006).

In laboratory mammals, 4-tert-octylphenol (OP) is well known to cause reproductive toxicity, especially when exposure occurs during development. Specific effects in females include uterus or cervical toxicity (Bogh 2001; Katsuda 2000), altered levels of reproductive hormones (Katsuda 2000), early onset of puberty in females (Bogh 2001; Katsuda 2000), altered estrous cycle (the rat equivalent of the menstrual cycle), and ovarian toxicity (Katsuda 2000).

In males, OP also causes decreased sperm count, sperm abnormalities, altered reproduction hormone levels and altered weight of the testis, prostate and other male reproductive organs (Boockfor 1997; Raychoudhury 1999, Yoshida 2001). Very low doses of 4-tert-octylphenol can cause reproductive toxicity in wildlife, especially aquatic organism. Low exposures to Atlantic salmon over a 26 day period reduced increased vitellogen (a molecular marker of endocrine distruption), impaired smolting and reduced the migratory instinct of exposed fish (Bangsgaard 2006). 4-Octylphenol is a potent growth stimulator in estrogen-dependent breast cancer cell lines (Diel 2002).

Octylphenols have rarely been measured in humans. They were not detected in 27 umbilical cord blood samples and 42 maternal blood samples collected in the Netherlands in 2004.


Widely used surfactants in commercial products; highly toxic to aquatic organisms, and endocrine disruptors in human and animals.

4-tert-Octylphenol has been found in 4 of the 28 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.

Top health concerns for 4-tert-Octylphenol (References)

health concern or target organ weight of evidence
Endocrine systemlimited

Results for 4-tert-Octylphenol

4-tert-Octylphenol was measured in different units for some of the studies. Overall it was found in 4 of 28 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies. The bars below are grouped by units:

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

EWG/Commonweal results

  • found in 3 of 9 people in the group

found in 3 of 9 people, but not quantified

in blood serum (wet weight)

Showing results from EWG/Commonweal Study #7, consumer product chemicals in adults and teens

EWG/Commonweal results

  • found in 1 of 19 people in the group
ng/g (wet weight) in blood serum 1.4

4-tert-Octylphenol results

Detailed toxicity classifications (References)

classification governing entity/references
Endocrine disruptor - suspected or limited evidenceDiel P., Olff S., Schmidt S., Michna H. (2002). "Effects of the environmental estrogens bisphenol A, o,p'-DDT, p-tert-octylphenol and coumestrol on apoptosis induction, cell proliferation and the expression of estrogen sensitive molecular parameters in the human breast cancer cell line MCF-7." J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 80(1): 10.