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Diethylhexyl phthalate

6. Does DEHP pose risks to human health?

  • 6.1 Are workers at risk from exposure to DEHP?
  • 6.2 Are consumers at risk from exposure to DEHP?
  • 6.3 Are people at risk from environmental exposure to DEHP?

The human population may be exposed to DEHP by swallowing it, for example in food, by breathing it in, and, to a much lesser extent, by skin contact. Risks are assessed by dividing worst-case exposures to the exposures at which no harmful effects were observed in animal studies. This gives the margin of safety (MOS). More...

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6.1 Are workers at risk from exposure to DEHP?

The exposure of people working in industries where DEHP is produced or used has been estimated, and the highest exposures have been estimated for those working in industries using end-products containing DEHP. It is assumed that such working conditions involve relatively high temperatures, generation of aerosols and considerable skin contact.

It is concluded that DEHP is of no concern for workers with respect to acute toxicity, irritation, skin sensitisation, cancer or effects on the inherited genetic material of cells.

However, for those workers who repeatedly inhale, or have skin contact, DEHP might have toxic effects on the testis, fertility and kidney. There is also concern for toxic effects on the embryo and fetus that could occur from shorter term exposures, if exposure occurs during pregnancy. More...

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6.2 Are consumers at risk from exposure to DEHP?

For adult consumers the exposure scenarios considered important include indoor air, car interiors, and the use of PVC gloves. The margins of safety for these and other pathways of exposure are sufficiently high in order to give no concern for toxic effects.

For children the exposure scenarios considered important include indoor air, car interiors, child-care articles and toys, taking into account the transfer of DEHP into the saliva as a result of mouthing and sucking. It is concluded that there is concern for effects on the testis, fertility, and kidney if there is repeated exposure via the aforementioned products.

The exposure to DEHP via the use of medical equipment represents a health risk for both adults and children. This risk depends on the medical treatment, with the highest risk being associated with long-term haemodialysis for adults, or long-term blood transfusion and blood oxygenation outside of the body for children and newborns. The testis, fertility and kidney as well as the embryo and fetus could be affected. More...

Editor’s note: DEHP has been banned in 2007 in the EU for usage in toys and childcare products.

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6.3 Are people at risk from environmental exposure to DEHP?

Environmental scenarios take account the exposure to DEHP via consumption of contaminated food, which includes breast milk and infant formula.

For children and adults not living in the vicinity of industrial sites producing or processing DEHP there are no concerns about exposures to DEHP via air or soil.

For adults living near industrial sites producing or using DEHP there are no concerns.

For children living near such industrial sites, there is concern for effects on the testis, fertility, and kidney in case of repeated exposure via food grown locally. Similarly, the testes of children living near sewage treatment plants or paper recycling plants, might be affected if locally grown food is consumed.

There are no concerns for newborns or infants exposed via infant formula or breast milk. More...

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