Agent Name


Alternative Name


Major Category

Plastics & Rubber




Phthalate Esters


Used as plasticizers in the production of plastics and rubber; Plasticizer are added to polymers to effect flexibility and/or toughness. [Sullivan, p. 484-5] Used as plasticizers to produce flexible vinyl for floors, walls, food containers, and medical applications; Low molecular weight compounds, e.g. diethyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate, are used in perfumes and cosmetics; Also used as solvents and plasticizers in cellulose acetate and to make lacquers, varnishes, and time-released pharmaceuticals; [Reference #1]


In general, phthalate esters have extremely low vapor pressures, and they are readily biodegraded; [HSDB] High-production chemicals that are reproductive toxins in animal experiments; [Klaasen, p. 790] The most used phthalate esters are diethylhexylphthalate and di-n-butylphthalate. They are nontoxic after acute exposure, but they are common water and soil contaminates and are weak animal carcinogens. [Sullivan, p. 484-5] In high-dose reproductive studies of rats and mice, DEHP and other phthalates cause testicular damage to males and increased fetal losses and malformations to pregnant females. [Frazier, p. 350-2] In high-dose feeding studies, laboratory animals develop liver tumors. [Zimmerman, p. 410] Adverse effects of phthalate esters include allergic contact dermatitis (Diethyl phthalate and Di-n-butyl phthalate) and liver injury (Di-n-octylphthalate). Dimethyl phthalate is an irritant. [Leikin, p. 789] In animal studies, some phthalates (e.g., DEHP and DiNP) cause liver injury, and some (MBP, MBzP, and MEHP) cause reproductive and developmental toxicity. Evidence is limited or inadequate that phthalates cause disease in humans. Biological half-lives of these chemicals are short. They are metabolized quickly and excreted in the urine. [Reference #1] Di-sec-octyl phthalate is a confirmed cause of occupational asthma; [Malo] See "Di-sec-octyl phthalate."

Reference Link

Phthalates and human health

Exposure Assessment
Half Life

Virtually all of di-n-butyl phthalate excreted within 48 hours in animal studies; TDR, p. 473]

Adverse Effects
Skin Sensitizer



Hepatotoxin, Secondary

Reproductive Toxin


Links to Other NLM Databases
Toxicity Information


Related Information in HazMap

Occupational diseases associated with exposure to this agent:


Industrial Processes with risk of exposure: