WHAT IS DEHP?

What is DEHP?

DEHP, which is an abbreviation for di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, is a manufactured chemical that is commonly added to plastics to make them flexible. Other names for this compound are dioctyl phthalate (DOP) and bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (BEHP). Trade names used for DEHP include Platinol DOP, Octoil, Silicol 150, Bisoflex 81, and Eviplast 80. DEHP is a colourless liquid with almost no odour. It does not evaporate easily, and little will be present in the air even near sources of production. It dissolves more easily in materials such as gasoline, paint removers, and oils than it does in water. It is present in many plastics, especially vinyl materials, which may contain up to 40% DEHP, although lower levels are common. DEHP is present in plastic products such as wall coverings, tablecloths, floor tiles, furniture upholstery, shower curtains, garden hoses, swimming pool liners, rainwear, baby pants, dolls, some toys, shoes, automobile upholstery and tops, packaging film and sheets, sheathing for wire and cable, medical tubing, and blood storage bags.

WHAT HAPPENS TO DEHP WHEN IT ENTERS THE ENVIRONMENT?

DEHP can enter the environment through releases from factories that make or use DEHP and from household items containing it. Over long periods of time, it can move out of plastic materials into the environment. Therefore, DEHP is widespread in the environment. It is often found near industrial settings, landfills, and waste disposal sites.

A large amount of plastic that contains DEHP is buried at landfill sites. DEHP has been found in groundwater near waste disposal facilities. When DEHP is released to soil, it usually attaches strongly to the soil and does not move very far away from where it was released. When DEHP is released to water, it dissolves very slowly into underground water or surface waters that contact it.

It takes many years before DEHP in buried or discarded materials disappears from the environment. Because DEHP does not evaporate easily, normally very little goes into the air. DEHP in the air will bind to dust particles and will be carried back down to earth through gravity and rain or snow. Indoor releases of DEHP to the air from plastic materials, coatings, and flooring in home and work environments, although small, can lead to higher indoor levels than are found in the outdoor air.

DEHP can break down in the presence of other chemicals to produce mono(2 ethylhexyl)phthalate (MEHP) and 2-ethyl hexanol. Many of the properties of MEHP are like those of DEHP, and therefore its fate in the environment is similar. In the presence of oxygen, DEHP in water and soil can be broken down by microorganisms to carbon dioxide and other simple chemicals. DEHP does not break down very easily when deep in the soil or at the bottom of lakes or rivers where there is little oxygen. It can be found in small amounts in fish and other animals, and some uptake by plants has been reported.

EFFECT ON HUMAN BODIES

BAN IN UNITED STATES AND EUROPE

The use of DEHP as a plasticizer has been declining in the U.S. and Europe due to concerns about its potential toxicity. It is being replaced with other plasticizers that may have lower toxicity. For example, it was the most common plasticizer used in pacifiers, rattles, and teethers until the early 1980s, when manufacturers voluntarily agreed to eliminate the intentional addition of DEHP. The U.S. Congress (the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008) has permanently banned three types of phthalates, including DEHP, in an amount greater than 0.1 percent (calculated for each phthalate individually) in children’s toys and any child care article that is designed or intended by the manufacturer to facilitate sleep or the feeding of children age 3 and younger with sucking or teething. Furthermore, it is no longer used in plastic food wrap products manufactured in the U.S.

In March 2017, the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and the Committee for Social-Economic Analysis (SEAC) were in support of a proposal by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and Denmark to restrict four phthalates (BBP, DBP, DEHP and DIBP) in articles containing plasticized materials.

In March 2018, the World Trade Organization (WTO) circulated a notification announcing a draft regulation from the European Union (EU) to amend entry 51 to Annex XVII of REACH. The proposed amendment, attached to WTO document number 18-1935 and notified under G/TBT/N/EU/564, contains several important changes to entry 51 under Annex XVII of REACH. These include the following:

Expanding the number of restricted phthalates from three (DEHP, DBP and BBP) to four (DEHP, DBP, BBP and DIBP)

Expanding the scope from plasticized materials in toys and childcare articles to plasticized materials in articles.

The proposal also exempts certain product categories from the scope. These include the following:

  • Articles for industrial use that are subject to certain conditions
  • Aircraft or motor vehicles (are exempt) for 5 years
  • Articles for the maintenance or repair of aircraft or motor vehicles
  • Articles placed on the market before the new restrictions become effective
  • Measuring devices for laboratory use
  • Food contact materials and articles
  • Medical devices
  • Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE)

Immediate packaging materials for medicinal products

It is important to note that DEHP, DBP, BBP and DIBP are regulated under Directive (EU) 2015/863; this is a piece of legislation that amended the RoHS Recast Directive on EEEs. The restriction of these phthalates will be implemented in phases, starting July 22, 2019. According to the WTO notification, the draft regulation is expected to be adopted in the second half of 2018.

According to the draft document, the regulation will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). The provision to restrict the four phthalates in articles other than toys and childcare articles will become effective 18 months after the date of entry into force

Major highlights of the proposed amendment and a comparison with entry 51 to Annex XVII of REACH are summarized in the following table.

Entry 51

The following Phthalates (or other CAS and EC numbers covering the substance):

Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)

CAS no 117-81-7
EC No 204-211-0

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)

CAS No 85-68-7
EC-No 201-557-4

Benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)

CAS no 85-68-7
EC no 201-622-7

Conditions of Restrictions

Shall not be used as a substance or in mixtures, in the concentration greater than 0.1% by weight of the plasticised material, in toys and childcare articles.

Toys and childcare articles containing these phthalates in the concentration greater than 0.1% by weight of the plasticised material shall not be placed in the market.

For the purpose of this entry ‘Childcare article’ shall mean any product intended to facilitate sleep, relaxation, hygiene, the feeding of children or sucking on part of children.

BAN IN AUSTRALIA

In 2006, the Australian National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) declared nine phthalates as Priority Existing Chemicals, including DEHP. As a result, NICNAS planned to conduct human health risk assessments on consumer applications of the nine phthalates. DEHP was considered to be the phthalate of potentially greatest concern and was, therefore, the first to be assessed. The NICNAS draft report recommended that action to be taken to limit the amount of DEHP in children’s toys and childcare articles. In 2011, Australia in the year 2011 introduced a ban on certain children’s plastic products (e.g., toys, childcare articles, eating vessels and utensils) containing >1% DEHP.

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