The National Toxicology Program (NTP) published a report about seven plasticizers (known as phthalates) found in a variety of polyvinyl chloride-based products, and isolates one to be the most concerned about as a hormone disrupter in humans and wildlife.
After intensive evaluation of seven phthalates, the only one that presents a serious concern to human reproduction or development, according to the study, is Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP. The concern is when boys are exposed to medical procedures using phthalate-containing equipment such as intravenous bags and tubing, and is of particular concern for premature babies. When the developing reproductive tract of male infants is exposed to high concentrations of the phthalate through medical procedures, the researchers found adverse effects.
The panel of researchers were not overly concerned about DEHP’s effect on adults.
The other plasticizers tested were butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), di-isononyl phthalate (DINP), di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP), di-n-hexyl phthalate (DnHP), and di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP). The chemicals were selected based on their high production volume, but it isn’t very clear where these phthalates end up in consumer products, although flexible tubing and plastic toys are two categories where many of these phthalates are used. Polyvinyl chloride is found in bottles of wax, shampoos, vegetable oils, salad dressing, mouthwashes, mineral water, and lunch meat wrap.
The normal plastic symbols for recycling don’t include any of those plasticizers for identification, although some of those seven may well fall into some of the recycling categories, such as recycling symbol number three, which is PVC.
The recycling categories are No. 2: PETE (polyethyelene terephthalate); No. 2: HDPE (high-density polyethylene); No. 3: PVC (vinyl, polyvinyl chloride); No. 4: LDPE (low-density polyethylene); No. 5: PP (polypropylene); No. 6: PS (polystyrene), and No. 7: Other (primarily multilayered plastics).
The full report is available here.