Results from the Swedish National Screening Programme 2006. Subreport 1: Phthalates

IVL has performed a 'screening study' of phthalates on commission from the Swedish EPA. The objectives of the study were to determine concentrations in a variety of media in the Swedish environment, to highlight important transport pathways, to assess the possibility of current emissions, to investigate the likelihood of atmospheric transport and uptake in biota and humans. In total 66 samples were analysed representing air, sediment, sludge, biota (fish), foodstuffs and human urine both in background and source areas. The phthalates included in the study were di-(2-ethyl)hexyl phthalate (DEHP), di-isononyl phthalate (DINP), di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP) and di-(2-ethyl)hexyl adipate (DEHA). In air, also di-ethyl phthalate (DEP), di-iso-butylphthalate (DIBP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) and butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP) were analysed. DEHP was most commonly occurring substance. The iso-phthalates were detected in all matrices apart from human urine and biota. The results show that there are on-going emissions of iso-phthalates as well as the other substances to the Swedish environment. Long-range atmospheric transport does not seem to be of major importance. The atmospheric levels of iso-phthalates were lower than DEHP levels with the exception of urban air, where DIDP dominated. In sediments and sludge the DINP levels were similar or higher than the DEHP levels. In sediments this was true also for DIDP, whereas DIDP levels in sludge corresponded to about 50 % of the DEHP levels. Uptake of phthalates in biota seems to be limited. Human exposure via food seems to be low, but other routes of exposure are possible, e.g. inhalation of indoor air. Iso-phthalates were not detected in human urine, bur detection limits were relatively high and a direct comparison to DEHP exposure was not possible. The current pattern of environmental levels mirrors the consumption pattern 5 years ago, thus reflecting a time lag which may be explained by the large amounts of DEHP still present in the technosphere. As there are no set risk levels of iso-phthalates, it is not possible to determine the risk of their presence in the environment.

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Last updated: 2021-05-05

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