Banned Phthalates in Humans Falls, Rise Seen in Possibly Unsafe Phthalates

Posted: 01/21/2014  browse the blog archive
Banned Phthalates in Humans Falls, Rise Seen in Possibly Unsafe Phthalates

According to a study conducted by the University of California San Francisco, the levels of banned phthalates in people’s bodies have decreased; however, similar and potentially toxic compounds are appearing in their place.  The findings were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives

Phthalates are chemical compounds that are used to soften plastic and vinyl, and make them more pliable.  They can be found in plastic pouches, packaging, medical devices, clothing and apparel, and even bandages.  Some of them—di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)—have been banned from children’s toys.

The study found that levels of DEHP, DBP and BBP in the subjects studied have declined over the last ten years, while levels of other, newer phthalate chemicals—diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), and di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP)—have increased, with DINP levels rising by nearly 150 percent.  DINP was recently designated a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, meaning that products sold in California that contain DINP will soon need to be accompanied by a health hazard warning.

Ruthann Rudel, the research director at the Silent Spring Institute in Massachusetts, stated that regulators should take lessons from the fact that exposures to new less-studied phthalates have simply replaced exposures to well-known phthalates.  “We put things out there, start using them in products, then we get concerns, then we substitute something else we don’t know anything about,” she said to the San Francisco Chronicle.  “We’ve got to come up with some sort of standard for safety in commercial chemicals…and then work with the chemicals that meet that standard.”

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act will hopefully update the Toxic Substances Control Act to do just that.

The Chanler Group represents citizen enforcers who, acting in the public interest, commence actions against businesses offering products for sale in California that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm without first providing the health hazard warning required by Proposition 65. Citizen enforcers bringing Proposition 65 actions in the public interest may obtain a Court Judgment imposing civil penalties, an injunction requiring reformulation of products, and/or provision of health hazard warnings. The Chanler Group has represented citizen enforcers of Proposition 65 for more than twenty years.