News Brief

Phthalate Exposure Persists Despite Regulations

Plasticizers known to be highly toxic decreased in a nine-year study, but tests showed elevated levels of less-scrutinized substitutes.

Phthalate Trends in U.S. People 2001–2010

As reported in Environmental Health News, phthalate levels show ups and downs.

Source: Zota et al. via Environmental Health News
People in the U.S. can rest a little easier about three toxic phthalates being phased out of consumer goods, reports Lindsey Konkel of Environmental Health News—but levels of other phthalates have gone up, in some cases dramatically. These chemicals are used as plasticizers to make vinyl products flexible and also appear in personal care products such as shampoo and fingernail polish.

A research team led by Ami Zota, Sc.D., found that exposure to three phthalates banned in U.S. children’s products in 2008 (BBzP, DnBP, and DEHP) had decreased among all age groups, but that exposure to substitutes had increased—more than doubling in the case of DiBP (Diisobutyl phthalate), a chemical used in cosmetics and food packaging that has not undergone scrutiny like many other phthalates. An assessment of DiBP by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2000 was inconclusive due to lack of data, while a hazard assessment seven years later by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing had little more information but noted possible reproductive and developmental effects in exposed rats.

Exposure to diisononyl phthalate (DiNP), a common substitute for toxic plasticizers used in vinyl wallcoverings and other PVC products, increased 149%. The State of California recently listed DiNP as a carcinogen (see “The PVC Debate: A Fresh Look”).

“These findings are not as reassuring as they could be,” epidemiologist Joe Braun, Ph.D., told Konkel, because widespread phthalate exposure continues despite regulatory action and public health campaigns.

“Temporal Trends in Phthalate Exposures: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2001–2010” was published in Environmental Health Perspectives and is available online.

Published February 3, 2014

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