We are working with the Washington State Department of Health, along with industry and environmental stakeholders, to develop an action plan that identifies sources of phthalates, and recommends actions to reduce the use, release, and exposure to phthalates in Washington.
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.
Why are we concerned?
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, and can interfere with hormone systems in the body. This can affect reproduction and development, especially for sensitive populations like children and people of childbearing age.
Studies also frequently find phthalates in Washington’s environment. Similar to concerns in humans, some phthalates can cause hormone disruption and impair reproduction and development in wildlife. They can also be toxic to aquatic life. Because 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.
What products contain phthalates?
Examples of consumer and industrial products that can contain phthalates include:
- Vinyl flooring.
- Household products made from vinyl, like shower curtains, toys, and tablecloths.
- Personal care and cleaning products—and the fragrances found in these products.
- Food contact materials, like conveyor belts, tubing, storage containers, packaging, and gloves.
- Building materials, including plastic pipes, roofing, adhesives and sealants, and wire or cable housing.
- Plastic medical devices: IV tubing, nutrition bags, and catheters.
How are we taking action?
- 2021 — Ecology launches an Action Plan to recommend actions to reduce phthalate releases and exposure in Washington state.
- 2020 — Safer Products for Washington lists vinyl flooring and personal care and beauty products as priority products containing phthalates for further research and potential regulation.
- 2019 — Washington passes The Pollution Prevention for Healthy People and Puget Sound Act, listing phthalates as priority chemicals under the first cycle of Safer Products for Washington.
- 2017 — Ecology updates the Children’s Safe Products Reporting Rule, adding four new phthalates to the list of chemicals of high concern to children, for a total of 12 phthalates.
- 2008 — The Children’s Safe Products Act restricts manufacturers from using six phthalates in children’s products.