This is a fact sheet about a chemical that may be found in some public or
private drinking water supplies. It may cause health problems if found
in amounts greater than the health standard set by the United States
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
What is Di (2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate and how is it used?
Di (2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate, or DEHP, is the most commonly used of a group
of related chemicals called phthalates or phthalic acid esters. The
greatest use of DEHP is as a plasticizer for polyvinylchloride (PVC) and
other polymers including rubber, cellulose and styrene. A number of
packaging materials and tubings used in the production of foods and
beverages are polyvinyl chloride contaminated with phthalic acid esters,
The list of trade names given below may help you find out whether you
are using this chemical at home or work.
Trade Names and Synonyms:
RC Plasticizer DOP
Why is Di (2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate being regulated?
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires
EPA to determine safe levels of chemicals in drinking water which do or
may cause health problems. These non-enforceable levels, based solely on
possible health risks and exposure, are called Maximum Contaminant Level
The MCLG for phthalate has been set at zero because EPA believes
this level of protection would not cause any of the potential health
problems described below.
Based on this MCLG, EPA has set an enforceable standard called a
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL). MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs as
possible, considering the ability of public water systems to detect and
remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies.
The MCL has been set at 6 parts per billion (ppb) because EPA
believes, given present technology and resources, this is the lowest
level to which water systems can reasonably be required to remove this
contaminant should it occur in drinking water.
These drinking water standards and the regulations for ensuring
these standards are met, are called National Primary Drinking Water
Regulations. All public water supplies must abide by these regulations.
What are the health effects?
Short-term: EPA has found phthalate to potentially cause the following
health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for
relatively short periods of time: mild gastrointestinal disturbances,
Long-term: Phthalate has the potential to cause the following
effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: damage to
liver and testes; reproductive effects; cancer.
How much Di (2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate is produced and released to the environment?
Disposal of polyvinyl chloride and other DEHP-containing materials by
incineration, landfill, etc., will result in the release of DEHP into
the environment. DEHP has been detected in the effluent of numerous
From 1987 to 1993, according to EPA's Toxic Chemical Release
Inventory, DEHP releases to land and water totalled over 500,000 lbs.,
of which about 95 percent was to land. These releases were primarily
from rubber and plastic hose industries. The largest releases occurred
in Wisconsin and Tennessee.
What happens to Di (2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate when it is released to the environment?
DEHP will adhere to soil, and so will neither evaporate nor leach into
groundwater. DEHP has a strong tendency to adsorb to soil and sediments.
In water, it will be degraded by microbes in a matter of weeks. DEHP
does have a tendency to accumulate in aquatic organisms.
How will Di (2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate be detected in and removed from my drinking
The regulation for phthalate became effective in 1994. Between 1993 and
1995, EPA required your water supplier to collect water samples every 3
months for one year and analyze them to find out if phthalate is present
above 0.6 ppb. If it is present above this level, the system must
continue to monitor this contaminant.
If contaminant levels are found to be consistently above the MCL,
your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of phthalate so
that it is consistently below that level. The following treatment
methods have been approved by EPA for removing phthalate: Granular
How will I know if Di (2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate is in my drinking water?
If the levels of phthalate exceed the MCL, 6 ppb, the system must notify
the public via newspapers, radio, TV and other means. Additional
actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be
required to prevent serious risks to public health.
This is a factsheet about a chemical that may be found in some
public or private drinking water supplies. It may cause health problems
if found in amounts greater than the health standard set by the United
States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Drinking Water Standards:
Mcl: 6 ppb (parts per billion)
Di (2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate Releases to Water and Land, 1987 to 1993 (in pounds):
Note: This fact sheet is part of a larger publication
adapted from U.S. EPA publication: EPA National Primary Drinking Water
|TOTALS* (in pounds)
|Top Five States*|
|Misc rubber products
|Rubber, plastic hose
|Cyclic crudes, intermed.
* Water/Land totals only include facilities with releases
greater than 100 lbs.