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Phthalates are additives that are widely used in plastics and other materials, primarily to make them soft and flexible. They are used in industry as well as in medical and consumer products.

There is public concern about phthalates because of their widespread use and occurrence in the environment. What is known about possible effects on environment and health?

Possible effects of five of the most widely used phthalates (DEHP, DBP, DINP, DIDP, and BBP) have been reviewed by the European Chemicals Bureau (ECB).

Phthalates assessed by the ECB and summarized by GreenFacts
Phthalates Comparison

The aim of this peer reviewed comparison is to put in perspective the potential dangers and risks of four phthalates used mainly as plasticizers in PVC applications and help the non specialist reader to make its opinion in these matters. More...

Latest update: 30 August 2013

Summary available in [en] [fr


Diethylhexyl-phthalate (DEHP) is a widely used plastic additive.

Its widespread use in everyday and medical products has raised some concerns about its safety. Does it pose a risk to health or the environment? More...

Latest update: 17 July 2012

Summary available in [en] [es] [fr


DBP is mainly used in PVC and other plastics. Other applications besides inks, paints and adhesives, include nail polish, perfumes, sealants, and lubricants.
Main conclusions: At some industrial sites, exposure of workers and emissions to air should be reduced More...

Latest update: 15 December 2005

Summary available in [en] [es] [fr


DIDP and DINP are two very similar phthalates. They are mainly used in PVC and other plastics, but also in some inks, paints and adhesives.
Main conclusions: DIDP in toys may pose a risk; more research may be needed on the environmental effects of DIDP and DINP. More...

Latest update: 15 December 2005

Summary available in [en] [es] [fr

Additionnal phthalate assessed by the ECB:

The Risk Assessment Report is available on the website of the European Chemicals Bureau:

  •  BBP (mainly used in PVC - particularly in flooring - and other plastics, but also sealants, adhesives, paints, coatings, and inks. Main conclusions: To protect human health, there is no need for risk reduction measures beyond those which are being applied already.)
Specific uses of phthalates
Phthalates in school supplies

Some school supplies, such as erasers, contain phthalates – substances that are added to plastics to make them soft.

Can regularly chewing on such articles cause harmful health effects? More...

Latest update: 8 June 2009

Summary available in [de] [en] [es] [fr

Themes covered
Publications A-Z

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