Learn about phthalates and if they're safe.

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About phthalates

Phthalates are a large group of chemicals used in plastics to soften and increase flexibility. They're also used as solvents in household products.

Examples of products containing phthalates include:

  • self-care products, such as:
    • cosmetics
    • non-prescription drugs
    • natural health products
  • construction and renovation products, such as:
    • building materials
    • lubricants and greases
    • paints and coatings
    • adhesives and sealants
  • fabrics and textiles
  • electrical items and electronics
  • children's toys and child care articles

Phthalates may also be used in:

  • printing inks
  • automotive products
  • pest control products
  • some food packaging materials

You may be exposed to phthalates as a result of using these products. You may also be exposed to phthalates from indoor air, dust, water and food.

Safety of phthalates

In general, we have found that most phthalates don't pose a risk to health or the environment at current levels of exposure. However, DEHP is an exception:

  • DEHP was found to be health toxic following an assessment in 1994
  • our recent assessment has found that DEHP is also toxic to the environment

What we're doing

Canada took action following the 1994 assessment to limit Canadians' exposure to DEHP by:

  • banning its use in cosmetics
  • managing its use in medical devices
  • regulating its use in the vinyl in children's toys and child care articles

If levels of exposure to phthalates increase, some phthalates could pose a risk to our health and/or the environment. Canada will continue to:

  • monitor new information on phthalate exposure
  • take action as necessary

What you can do

You can minimize your exposure to DEHP. Use these tips:

  • read product labels and the manufacturer's directions:
    • choose products labelled as phthalate- or PVC-free
      • be aware that some soft or flexible plastic products made with PVC may contain phthalates
      • check for the plastic recycling code 3, which identifies PVC products
      • contact the manufacturer if you're unsure if your product contains phthalates or PVC
    • DEHP may be listed on labels using the full name (di 2-ethylhexl phthalate)
    • follow safety warnings and directions
    • use, store and dispose of the product safely
  • keep away from children:
    • keep soft PVC items not intended for children out of reach
    • don't let a child suck or chew on soft plastic products that aren't intended for children

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