We work with the Department of Health — along with industry and environmental stakeholders and community organizations — to identify and take actions to reduce the use, release, and exposure to phthalates in Washington.
To guide this work, we developed a phthalates action plan.
What are phthalates?
Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make a number of different consumer products. They're used as:
- Plasticizers, which add flexibility to plastics.
- Solvents and fixatives, where they often extend the life of scents in fragrances.
What products contain phthalates?
Examples of consumer and industrial products that can contain phthalates include:
- Building materials (such as plastic pipes, roofing, adhesives, sealants, wire or cable housing, and vinyl flooring).
- Food contact materials (such as conveyor belts, tubing, storage containers, packaging, and gloves).
- Fragrances in personal care and cleaning products.
- Plastic medical devices (such as IV tubing, nutrition bags, and catheters).Vinyl flooring.
- Vinyl household products (such as shower curtains, flooring, toys, and tablecloths).
Why are phthalates a chemical of concern?
Phthalates don’t form strong bonds with materials they’re used in. This means they can easily escape from products into the air and dust in our homes and into the environment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 90% of Americans have measurable levels of phthalates in their blood.
A number of studies show that phthalates are endocrine disruptors, which means they can:
- Interfere with hormone systems in the body.
- Affect reproduction and development, especially for sensitive populations like children and people of childbearing age.
Impacts to the environment and wildlife
Similar to concerns in humans, some phthalates can impact wildlife through:
- Hormone disruption.
- Impaired reproduction and development.
- Toxicity to aquatic life.
Studies also frequently find phthalates in the environment, but phthalates are not persistent in the environment (meaning they break down quickly). Concentrations found reflect levels of phthalates that are currently being released into the environment.
How are we addressing phthalates?
Phthalates action plan
In 2023, we issued the final phthalates action plan recommendations in cooperation with Department of Health. The plan incorporates feedback from interested parties and will guide future actions to address phthalates in Washington.
Regulations that restrict phthalates
Regulations and laws continue to pass that either restrict certain phthalates or identify them as priority chemicals worthy of further study to determine possible regulation. Current regulations include:
- Safer Products for Washington lists vinyl flooring and personal care and beauty products as priority products in need of further research to determine possible regulation.
- Children’s Safe Products Act restricts manufacturers from using certain phthalates in children’s products and continues to add more phthalates to the list of chemicals of high concern to children.