Chemical manufacturers say they will seek approval from the European Union to continue use of di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), a plastic-softening phthalate that the EU is banning.
DEHP is among the first six compounds that the EU is phasing out under its Registration, Evaluation, Authorization & Restriction of Chemical substances (REACH) program. Sale or use of these six chemicals will cease in three to five years unless industry obtains authorization, the European Commission announced on February17, 2011.
In addition to DEHP, the ban affects two other phthalates—benzyl butyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate. The three phthalates are targeted because of reproductive toxicity. The EU already prohibits use of these three compounds in children's toys.
DEHP is highly lipophilic (fat soluble). When used in PVC plastic, DEHP is loosely chemically bonded to the plastic and readily leaches into blood or other lipid-containing solutions in contact with the plastic.
This leaching of DEHP into humans via the solution with which it is in contact increases the risk of certain adverse health outcomes. Animal studies show that exposure to DEHP can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system, particularly the developing testes of prenatal and neonatal males.