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Redefining phthalate exposure in EU and USA

Redefining phthalate exposure in EU and USA

In a new finding, the European Commission has concluded that the phthalates in toys and childcare products pose no risk to infants. The findings, which also include adult sex toys, are in line with the conclusions presented in August 2013 by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). As reported by PRW.com, based on ECHA’s assessment, the Commission has concluded that “no unacceptable risk has been characterised for the uses of DINP and DIDP in articles other than toys and childcare articles which can be placed in the mouth”. The Commission further concluded that “in the light of the absence of any further risks from the uses of DINP and DIDP, the evaluation of potential substitutes has been less pertinent. DINP and DIDP are therefore safe for use in all current consumer applications”. “The safety and optimal performance of plasticizers is essential for the numerous durable flexible PVC articles being used my millions of Europeans every day. The European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates (ECPI) is confident the Commission’s communication will provide reassurance to consumers as well as a stable regulatory environment for companies to continue using these two high phthalates” stated ECPI’s manager, Dr Stéphane Content. “Furthermore, DINP and DIDP have proved to be reliable substitutes for the classified low phthalates which are currently undergoing Reach Authorisation” he added. Regarding children, ECHA concluded that “no further risk management measures are needed to reduce the exposure of children to DINP and DIDP”. In the case of adults, the bio-monitoring data reviewed by ECHA confirmed that “exposure from food and the indoor environment are not very significant” and, in the case of dermal exposure to DINP and DIDP is “not expected to result in a risk for adults or the developing foetus in pregnant women”.

Americans are being exposed to significantly lower levels of some phthalates that were banned from children’s articles in 2008, but exposures to other forms of these chemicals are rising steeply, according to a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco. The paper, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to examine how phthalate exposures have changed over time in a large, representative sample of the U.S. population. It delineates trends in a decade’s worth of data -from 2001 to 2010 -in exposure to 8 phthalates among 11,000 people who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Six of the phthalates have been banned from use in children’s articles, such as toys. Three were permanently banned, and three were subject to an interim ban, pending further study, from use in toys that can be placed in a child’s mouth. The law took effect in January of 2009. Exposures to the phthalates subject to the permanent ban - BBzP, DnBP and DEHP - all went down. DEHP exposures were consistently higher in children than adults, but the gap between the age groups narrowed over time. Data were not available for children younger than 6 years old. Paradoxically, exposures went up in the phthalates that Congress banned pending further study - DnOP, DiDP and DiNP. They increased by 15 and 25% in the first two, but went up nearly 150% in DiNP, which industry is using to replace other phthalates like DEHP. DiNP was recently added to the list of chemicals known by the state of California to cause cancer under California’s Proposition 65.
The federal ban is not the only force at work in determining phthalate exposures. Both consumers and industry have changed their behavior in response to advocacy by groups like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Since 2004, more than 1,000 companies have agreed to remove certain chemicals from personal care products and report more clearly what chemicals they are using. Possibly as a consequence of these changes, the study found dramatic changes in exposures to the other two phthalates they measured (DEP and DiBP), neither of which has been subject to federal restrictions. Exposure to DEP fell 42% since 2001 and tripled for DiBP. DEP was widely used in the consumer care products that were the main focus of the early activism. The researchers said industry may be using DiBP as a replacement, both in personal care products and in solvents, adhesives and medication. But they said it is hard to know for sure how changes in industry preference and consumer behavior are affecting human exposures, given how little is known about the chemical composition of consumer products.

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