Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, better known as DEHP or DOP, is a chemical added to plastics during the manufacturing process to soften the material and make it more flexible. DEHP is common in many everyday products, including packaging, film, toys, medical tubing, storage bags and disposable vinyl gloves.
Research has prompted both the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to label DEHP as a potential carcinogen and reproductive toxin. In studies of rats and mice, DHHS concluded that prolonged exposure to DEHP resulted in damaged sperm, delayed sexual maturity and liver and kidney damage.
Limitations on Use
DEHP’s potential health risks have prompted officials in several countries, including the United States, to ban the use of DEHP in children’s toys. Japan (2001) and the European Union (2008) have also banned the use of DEHP in foodservice gloves out of concern that the chemical will leach onto food and be ingested.
California Proposition 65
DEHP is among chemicals the listed as part of California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. Better known under the name Proposition 65, the Act identifies chemicals that are known carcinogens or that cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. Products sold in the California may only contain chemicals listed as part of Proposition 65 (beyond detectable levels) if accompanied by a warning stating the chemical’s adverse health effects.
Vinyl gloves have become a popular target in recent years for lawsuits claiming violations of Proposition 65. More than 20 glove companies have been sued for allegedly selling vinyl gloves in California containing DEHP that lacked adequate warning labels on their packaging.
The most common DEHP substitute is Diisononyl phthalate (DINP), but the switch brings added costs.