Health effects of diethyl phthlate

Introduction

Diethyl phthalate is a man-made colorless liquid with a slight aromatic odor and a bitter, disagreeable taste. Trade names include neantine, peilatinol A, and solvanol. Diethyl phthalate is manufactured for many uses. It is commonly used to make plastics more flexible. Because diethyl phthalate is not a part of the chain of chemicals (polymers) which makes up the plastics, it can be released fairly easily from these products. These plastics are found in products such as toothbrushes, automobile parts, tools, toys, and food packaging. Diethyl phthalate is also used in cosmetics, insecticides, and aspirin.

Pathways for diethyl phthlate in the environment

Diethyl phthalate is a man-made colorless liquid with a slight aromatic odor and a bitter, disagreeable taste. Trade names include neantine, peilatinol A, and solvanol. Diethyl phthalate is manufactured for many uses. It is commonly used to make plastics more flexible. Because diethyl phthalate is not a part of the chain of chemicals (polymers) which makes up the plastics, it can be released fairly easily from these products. These plastics are found in products such as toothbrushes, automobile parts, tools, toys, and food packaging. Diethyl phthalate is also used in cosmetics, insecticides, and aspirin.

Exposure to diethyl phthlate

You may be exposed to diethyl phthalate in consumer products and plastics. You may also be exposed during the manufacturing or disposal of products that contain diethyl phthalate. Most exposure will result from inhalation of contaminated air or swallowing of contaminated drinking water or foods. The measured levels of diethyl phthalate in air, water, and soil are generally quite low. For example, diethyl phthalate has been measured at hazardous waste sites in the groundwater at 0.0125 parts of diethyl phthalate per million parts (ppm) of water, in surface water at 0.0121 ppm, and in soil at 0.039 ppm (on a weight basis, a part per million is equivalent to one unit of weight, such as one gram, of a chemical, in 1,000,000 grams of a medium, such as water or soil). Diethyl phthalate has been found in drinking water at concentrations of 0.00001–0.0046 ppm, in industrial waste waters at 0.00001–0.060 ppm, in river waters at 0.00006–0.044 ppm, and in sediments from other large bodies of water (Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico) at up to 0.042 ppm. The amount of diethyl phthalate in soil is unknown. However, diethyl phthalate will probably be rapidly decomposed by soil bacteria, so that little will be taken up into plants. Diethyl phthalate has been measured in indoor air (in a telephone switching office) at 0.00018–0.00022 ppm and in outdoor air (Newark, New Jersey) at 0.00004–0.00006 ppm. Fish taken from contaminated waters had up to about 2 ppm of diethyl phthalate in their tissues. Oysters contained up to about 1 ppm. Diethyl phthalate in plastic packaging may get into food and has been found in packaged food (quiche) at concentrations of about 2–5 ppm. The daily human intake of diethyl phthalate has been estimated to be 4 milligrams (mg) based on food intake, but the annual exposure from drinking contaminated drinking water has been estimated to be quite low (0.0058 mg/year/person).

Occupational exposure to diethyl phthalate is possible as a result of its use in plastics and other products such as cosmetics and insect repellents. The National Occupational Exposure Survey estimated that over 239,000 employees could potentially be exposed to diethyl phthalate in the workplace. Diethyl phthalate was found in plants that manufacture rubber products at concentrations up to 0.0013 ppm.

Pathways for diethyl phthlate in the body

Diethyl phthalate can enter your body when you breathe air, drink water, or eat food containing it. It can also enter your body through your skin. It is possible that exposure could occur near hazardous waste sites, at manufacturing facilities, or through the use of consumer products containing the substance. If you get it on your skin, your body will probably absorb only a small amount of it. We do not know how much you will absorb if you breathe or eat it. Once it enters your body, it breaks down into other chemicals, some of which are harmful. Diethyl phthalate and its breakdown products will leave your body mostly in the urine within about 2 days. Only small amounts of the compound or its breakdown products will remain in the tissues.

Health effects of diethyl phthlate

No information is available regarding the possible effects caused by diethyl phthalate if you breathe, eat, drink, or have skin contact with it. Because no studies involving humans exposed exclusively to diethyl phthalate are available, we must rely on studies in laboratory animals.

You should know that one way to learn whether a chemical will harm people is to determine how the body absorbs, uses, and releases the chemical. For some chemicals, animal testing may be necessary. Animal testing may also help identify such health effects as cancer or birth defects. Without laboratory animals, scientists would lose a basic method for getting information needed to make wise decisions that protect public health. Scientists have the responsibility to treat research animals with care and compassion. Scientists must comply with strict animal care guidelines because laws today protect the welfare of research animals.

Additionally, there are vigorous national and international efforts to develop alternatives to animal testing. The efforts focus on both in vitro and in silico approaches and methods. For example, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) created the NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM) in 1998. The role of NICEATM is to serve the needs of high quality, credible science by facilitating development and validation—and regulatory and public acceptance—of innovative, revised test methods that reduce, refine, and replace the use of animals in testing while strengthening protection of human health, animal health and welfare, and the environment. In Europe, similar efforts at developing alternatives to animal based testing are taking place under the aegis of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM).

Furthermore, there is no information on the effects of breathing diethyl phthalate in laboratory animals. Diethyl phthalate has caused death in animals given very high doses by mouth, but brief oral exposures to lower doses caused no harmful effects. One effect found in animals that ate high doses of diethyl phthalate for long periods of time was a decrease in weight gain. This effect may have occurred because they ate less food, or because they excreted more of the food they ate. The livers and kidneys of these animals were larger than normal, but not from any harmful effect. Other studies noted the presence of an extra rib in rat fetuses whose mothers were given very high dietary levels of diethyl phthalate, but this effect is not considered harmful by all scientists.

Diethyl phthalate is not known to cause cancer in humans or animals. Unlike other phthalates such as di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, diethyl phthalate does not appear to affect the ability of male animals to father babies (see ATSDR toxicological profile for di[2-ethylhexyl] phthalate for more information on this chemical). However, a decrease occurred in the number of live babies born to female animals that were exposed to diethyl phthalate throughout their lives. Some birth defects occurred in newborn rats whose mothers received high doses (approximately 3 g/kg) of diethyl phthalate by injection during pregnancy. However, humans are not exposed to diethyl phthalate this way, and no information is available on whether this chemical can cause birth defects when given by mouth.

Diethyl phthalate can be mildly irritating when applied to the skin of animals. It can also be slightly irritating when put directly into the eyes of animals. We have no information on the health effects of diethyl phthalate when applied to the skin for long periods of time.

Medical tests for exposure to diethyl phthlate

Chemical tests are available to determine diethyl phthalate levels in semen, fat, and kidney tissues. These tests are known as biomonitoring.

Further Reading

Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.

Glossary

Citation

(2008). Health effects of diethyl phthlate. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbedfb7896bb431f6953e1

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