High phthalates are not endocrine disruptors

At the recent event “Hold-up sur la fertilité! Phtalates et perturbateurs endocriniens, de la recherche scientifique à l’action” organised by RES and WECF at the French National Assembly in Paris on 10 April, participants presented all phthalates as a single category of substances with potential endocrine disruptive effects. However, it is important to note that phthalates are a large and diverse family of chemicals and to use the generic term “phthalates” in this context is simply not correct.

High molecular weight phthalates (known as DINP, DIDP or DPHP), which are the most widely used in Europe, are not endocrine disruptors. Recent independent studies have shown no evidence of adverse effects mediated via an endocrine mode of action for high phthalates in animal studies and, equally, there is no evidence for such effects in humans. It is important to emphasise that high phthalates have undergone individual and comprehensive risk assessments completed by the European Union. The results of this risk assessment have confirmed that they are not reproductive agents, are not classified for any health or environmental hazard, and can be safely used in all current applications. The same conclusion has been reached by the European Council for Plasticisers, ECPI’s expert scientists who, using OECD’s endocrine evaluation framework, have clearly shown that high phthalates are not endocrine disrupters.

At the Paris event, the speakers, including Dr. Shanna Swan and Prof. René Habert, presented the results of some of their studies and investigations conducted specifically on low molecular weight phthalates (DEHP, DBP and others).

However, they repeatedly and incorrectly used the general term “phthalates” implying that their endocrine research relates to all phthalates. Scientific rigour and factual accuracy is essential in order to avoid making unjustified, undifferentiated and generic claims when referring to the effects of one single substance and not an entire group. There is ample research published on plasticisers and the safety of high molecular weight phthalates which should not be ignored, whether the debate is scientific or political.

In this regard, ECPI recognizes the importance of research and has supported independent studies over the last 30 years, investing approximately 130 Million Euros in scientific research. Whatever the underlying motivation: political pressure in an pre-election situation or research scientists seeking further funding, there can be no reason for making alarmist but inaccurate statements with respect to  any subject, including generically and incorrectly referring to a large and diverse family of chemicals implying that all are the same.

The protection of consumers is of paramount importance to the plasticisers industry. ECPI and its members are committed to product safety, and will continue to support the use of sound science and risk assessment when analysing and assessing phthalate plasticisers.