Phthalates in school supplies


Glossary over Phthalates in school supplies


The process of taking in. For a person or an animal, absorption is the process of a substance getting into the body through the eyes, skin, stomach, intestines, or lungs. (Source: ATSDR Glossary of Terms  )



Any substance that prevents or reduces damage caused by free-radicals (highly reactive chemicals containing oxygen) which attack other molecules and modify their chemical structure.

Antioxidants are commonly used as preservatives in food or cosmetics. Well-known antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E. (Source: GreenFacts)

Benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)

BBP is a phthalate that is mainly used as an additive for plasticising PVC or other polymers.

Other examples of applications include: perfumes, hair sprays, adhesives and glues, automotive products, vinyl floor coverings

At present, BBP is banned in all toys and childcare articles (see European Directive 2005/84/EC) and in cosmetics, including nail polish as it is considered to be carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction (CMR-substance) (see European Cosmetics Directive). (Source: GreenFacts)



Biomonitoring is a scientific technique for assessing human exposures to natural and synthetic chemicals, based on sampling and analysis of an individual's tissues and fluids.

While blood, urine, breast milk and expelled air are most commonly measured, hair, nails, fat, bone and other tissues may also be sampled.

This technique takes advantage of the knowledge that chemicals that have entered the human body leave markers reflecting this exposure. The marker may be the chemical itself. It may also be a breakdown product of the chemical or some change in the body that is a result of the action of the chemical on the individual.

For example, alterations in the levels of certain enzymes or other proteins may serve as markers; so too might modifications of normal body processes, such as the transfer of oxygen to tissues. (Source: Biomonitoring Info, What is biomonitoring?  )


Bromine (Br) is mainly used in fire retardants and fine chemicals. It is a very strong oxidizer (highly reactive substance that readily takes on electrons) and belongs to the same chemical family as chlorine. Elemental bromine is a reddish-brown liquid. It has an irritating effect on the eyes and throat and has a bleaching action. When spilled on the skin it produces painful sores. (Source: GreenFacts )


Any one of a group of diseases that occur when cells in the body become abnormal and have the potential to spread and establish growth in nearby tissues and other parts of the body (malignancy). (Source: GreenFacts )



Chlorine (Cl2) is produced in large amounts and widely used both industrially and domestically as a disinfectant and bleach. In particular, it is widely used in the disinfection of swimming pools and is the most commonly used disinfectant and oxidant for drinking-water treatment. In water, chlorine reacts to form hypochlorous acid and hypochlorites. (Source: WHO  Guidelines for drinking water quality )


A material made up of two or more elements combined in a fixed ratio. (Source: CoRIS glossary  )



The amount of a chemical or substance present in a particular quantity of soil, water, air, food, blood, hair, urine, breath, or any other media. (Source: GreenFacts)


Developmental effects

Effects in the developing offspring due to exposure before conception (either parent), prenatally, or postnatally to the time of sexual maturation. Developmental effects may be expressed at any time in the life span of the organism. Developmental effects are a subset of reproductive effects. (Source: CSIRO CSIRO biological effects and safety of EMR Glossary  )

DG Health and Consumers

"The Health and Consumers DG (formally known as Health and Consumer Protection DG) is one of 36 Directorates-General (DGs) and specialised services which make up the European Commission."

The mission statement of the Health and Consumers DG is: "to promote a better quality of life by ensuring a high level of protection of consumers' health, safety and economic interests as well as of public health"

"This overall goal is addressed through legislative and non-legislative actions in three inter-related policy areas: 1. Consumer policy (...), 2. Public Health (...), 3. Food safety, animal health, animal welfare and plant health (...)". (Source: DG Health and Consumers website  )

Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)

DEHP is a phthalate, a substance to make plastics more flexible. In the 1990s it was the most commonly used plasticizer, added to many PVC building materials, for example PVC flooring.

Other examples of applications include: perfumes, and flexible PVC products such as shower curtains, garden hoses, diapers, food containers, plastic film for food packaging, bloodbags, catheters, gloves, and other medical equipments such as tubes for fluids.

At present, DEHP is banned in all toys and childcare articles (see European Directive 2005/84/EC). The use of this substance is also banned in cosmetics as it is considered to be carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction (CMR-substance). (See European Cosmetics Directive) (Source: GreenFacts)


Di-isobutyl phthalate (DIBP)

DIBP is a phthalate and an additive used to keep plastics soft or more flexible (plasticiser), often in combination with other phthalates.

DIBP is used in nitro cellulose plastic, nail polish, explosive material, lacquer manufacturing, etc.

DIBP has so far not been evaluated at EU level and is not subjected to any EU ban.

Because DIBP has very similar application properties to DBP which was banned in toys and childcare articles as well as in cosmetics, it may therefore be used as a substitute, for instance in PVC, paints, printing inks and adhesives. (Source: GreenFacts)


Di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP)

DIDP is a phthalate that is mainly used as additives in plastics to make them more flexible.

Its structure and applications are very similar to those of DINP. It has been widely used in everyday products, ranging from floorings to shoe soles.

In the 1990s, around 95% of DIDP was used in PVC as a plasticiser. More than half of the remaining 5% was used in the production of polymers other than PVC (e.g. rubbers). The remaining DIDP was used in non-polymer applications including anti-corrosion paints, anti-fouling paints, sealing compounds and textile inks.

At present, DIDP is banned in toys and childcare articles that children can put into their mouths (see European Directive 2005/84/EC) (Source: based on the GreenFacts study on Phthalates)


Di-isononyl phthalate (DINP)

DINP is a phthalate that is mainly used as additives in plastics to make them more flexible. Its structure and applications are very similar to those of DIDP. It has been widely used in everyday products, ranging from floorings to shoe soles.

In the 1990s, around 95% of DINP was used in PVC as a plasticiser. More than half of the remaining 5% was used in the production of polymers other than PVC (e.g. rubbers). The remaining DINP was used in non-polymer applications including inks, adhesives and sealants, paints and lacquers.

At present, DINP is banned in toys and childcare articles that children can put into their mouths (see European Directive 2005/84/EC). (Source: based on the GreenFacts study on Phthalates)


Di-n-octylphthalate (DNOP)

DNOP is a colorless, odorless, oily liquid that does not evaporate easily. It is a man-made substance used to keep plastics soft or more flexible (plasticiser). It can be used for medical tubing and blood storage bags, wire and cables, carpetback coating, floor tile, and adhesives. It is also used in cosmetics and pesticides.

At present, DNOP is banned in toys and childcare articles that children can put into their mouths (see European Directive 2005/84/EC). (Source: GreenFacts, based on ATSDR, ToxFAQs for DNOP  )



When kidneys do not function properly, toxic wastes in the blood cannot be filtered out anymore and build up. If nothing is done, this can lead to death. Dialysis is a medical procedure that uses a machine to filter waste products from the blood and restore the bloods normal constituents. (Source: GreenFacts )

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)

DBP, also known as DNBP, is a phthalate with the same core structure as DIDP and DINP but with two shorter side chains attached, each having four carbon atoms.

In the 1990s, over 75% of DBP was used as plasticiser in plastics such as PVC, 14% in adhesives, 7% in printing inks and 3% in other miscellaneous uses, including sealants and grouting agents used in construction as well as consumer products. For instance, it was used as an additive to perfumes, deodorants, hair sprays, nail polish, printer inks, and insecticides.

At present, DBP is banned in all toys and childcare articles (see European Directive 2005/84/EC) as well as in cosmetics, including nail polish as it is considered to be carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction (CMR-substance) (see European Cosmetics Directive). (Source: Based on the GreenFacts study on Phthalates)


Digestive tract

The digestive tract is the system of organs which takes in food, digests it to extract energy and nutrients and expels remaining waste. It includes the mouth, salivary glands, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum.

After food is chewed and swallowed, the digestive juices released by the pancreas and stomach break it down into substances that are readily absorbed through the small intestine. Material that is not taken up by the body collects in the large intestine, forming faecal matter that is then excreted through the anus. (Source: GreenFacts)


Directive on Phthalate-containing soft PVC toys and childcare articles

Since 1999 the European Commission has prohibited the use of phthalates in children's toys. This product is especially dangerous in toys placed in the mouth by babies and small children, because the absorption of phthalates may exceed the maximum daily dose and have a long-term impact on health.

Six phthalates are prohibited in this type of toy: di-iso nonyl phthalate (DINP), di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP or DNBP), di-iso-decyl phthalate (DIDP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP) and butylbenzyl phthalate (BBP).

In 2005, the ban was made permanent by an EU Directive (2005/84/EC). The Directive broadened the ban to include not only toys but also childcare articles as they can be placed in the mouth by small children. A childcare article is any product intended to facilitate sleep , relaxation, hygiene, the feeding of children, or sucking on the part of children. (Source: Europa website, Phthalate-containing soft PVC and childcare articles )

Electromagnetic spectrum

The electromagnetic spectrum is the entire range of wavelengths of all known electromagnetic radiations. It includes:

Gamma rays have the smallest wavelengths and highest frequencies known. They are high energy waves capable of travelling long distances through air and are the most penetrating waves.

X-rays have longer wavelengths than gamma rays but smaller wavelengths and therefore higher energy than ultraviolet radiation. They have been used in various applications in science and industry and are primarily used in medicine for instance in radiography. They are a form of ionizing radiation and as such can be dangerous. X-rays are emitted by electrons outside the nucleus, while gamma rays are emitted by the nucleus.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is defined as the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum between X-rays and visible light. More...

Visible light – also known as the visible spectrum – is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that human eyes can detect. It covers all colours from blue at 400 nm to red at 700 nm, with blue light having more energy than red light.

Infrared (IR) radiation – also referred to as thermal radiation – is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum lying between visible light and microwaves. The most important natural source of infrared radiation is the sun.

Radio waves have long wavelengths, ranging from a few centimetres to many thousands of kilometres in length. They are used among other things for television, cell phone and radio communications. (Source: GreenFacts)


European Commission

"The European Commission (EC) embodies and upholds the general interest of the [European] Union and is the driving force in the Union's institutional system. Its four main roles are to propose legislation to Parliament and the Council, to administer and implement Community policies, to enforce Community law (jointly with the Court of Justice) and to negotiate international agreements, mainly those relating to trade and cooperation."

The Commission's staff is organised into 36 Directorates-General (DGs) and specialised services, such as the Environment DG and the Research DG. (Source: EC website  )

European Cosmetics Directive

The Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC) is the overall piece of EC legislation that regulates the manufacture and placing on the market of cosmetic products. Its main aim is to ensure that cosmetics are not harmful under normal or foreseeable conditions of use. Adopted by the European Union in 1976, it has since been substantially revised many times. (Source: GreenFacts)



In female mammals, lactation refers to the production of milk in the mammary glands for the offspring. In humans, it is referred to as breastfeeding. (Source: GreenFacts)

Mass (weight) Units

The Metric System of Measurements uses the mass units: gram (g), kilogram (kg) and tonne (t).

1000 g = 1 kg
1000 kg = 1 tonne

Adding prefixes of the International System of Units (SI) allows to express weight as multiples or fractions of 1 gram:

1 gigatonne (Gt) =1 000 000 000 000 000 g
1 megatonne (Mt) =1 000 000 000 000 g
1 tonne (t) =1 000 000 g
1 kilogram (kg) =1 000 g
1 gram (g) =1 g
1 milligram (mg) =0.001 g
1 microgram (µg) =0.000 001 g
1 nanogram (ng) =0.000 000 001 g
1 picogram (pg) =0.000 000 000 001g

Imperial and US weight units can also be expressed as metric units:

Metric units
1 US ton (ton) =0.907 tonne
1 UK ton (ton) =1.016 tonne
1 lb (pound) =453.59 g
1 oz (ounce) =28.35g

Further information on the International System of Units (SI) is provided by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) 


The conversion or breakdown of a substance from one form to another by an enzyme. (Source: GreenFacts, based on ATSDR Glossary of Terms )


No Observed Adverse Effect Level

The highest tested dose of a substance that has been reported to have no harmful (adverse) health effects on people or animals. (Source: ATSDR Glossary of Terms   )


Perfluorinated compound

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are a group of chemicals containing fluorine. They are used to make materials stain and stick resistant and do not break down readily. These chemicals have been used since the 50s in a large number of household products, for instance in Teflon and stain resistant products. (Source: GreenFacts)


Phthalates are a group of man-made chemicals that are structurally related to the organic acid, phthalic acid. The most important use of phthalates is in plastics, especially PVC, where they act as plasticisers. (Source: based on the GreenFacts Digest on phthalates)



A plasticiser is a substance which when added to a material, usually a plastic, produces a product which is flexible, resilient and easier to handle. (Source: Plasticisers Information Centre Frequently Asked Questions )



A polymer is a high-molecular-weight organic compound, natural or man-made, consisting of many repeating simpler chemical units or molecules called monomers.

Examples of natural polymers are proteins (polymer of amino acids) and cellulose (polymer of sugar molecules).

An example of synthetic polymer is PVC (a polymer of vinyl chloride). (Source: GreenFacts)



Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a polymer of vinyl chloride used to make various plastic products.

Examples of PVC products range from medical devices such as medical tubing and blood bags, to footwear, electrical cables; packaging, stationery, and toys. (Source: GreenFacts)

Risk assessment

A scientifically based process consisting of four steps:

  • hazard identification,
  • hazard characterization,
  • exposure assessment and
  • risk characterization
(Source:   Official Journal of the European Communities 2002 L 31 )


Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks

The Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) is one of three independent non-food scientific committees that advise the European Commission on matters of consumer safety, public health and the environment.

The committee was set up in 2004 to provide the European Commission with scientific advice on health and environmental risks. It replaced the Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (CSTEE).

SCHER addresses questions relating to examinations of the toxicity and ecotoxicity of chemicals, biochemicals and biological compound whose use may have harmful consequences for human health and the environment.

In particular, the Committee addresses questions related to new and existing chemicals, the restriction and marketing of dangerous substances, biocides, waste, environmental contaminants, plastic and other materials used for water pipe work (e.g. new organics substances), drinking water, indoor and ambient air quality. It addresses questions relating to human exposure to mixtures of chemicals, sensitisation and identification of endocrine disrupters.

The SCHER complies with the principles of independence, transparency and confidentiality. SCHER members therefore make a declaration of commitment to act in the public interest and a declaration of interests; requests for opinions, agendas, minutes and opinions are published; work and publications are done with regard to the need for commercial confidentiality.

For further information on the SCHER see:
SCHER website 

Thyroid gland

The thyroid gland consists of two bodies like small walnuts; they are connected by an isthmus beside the larynx (voice box). The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones T3 and T4 which regulate the metabolism of all cells in the body. Disorders of the thyroid gland are characterized by the inability to produce or release sufficient thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism) or the overactivity of the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). (Source: EMCOM Endocrine Disruptors Glossary  )


Tolerable Daily Intake

A TDI is an estimate of the amount of a substance in air, food or drinking water that can be taken in daily over a lifetime without appreciable health risk. TDIs are calculated on the basis of laboratory toxicity data to which uncertainty factors are applied.

TDIs are used for substances that do not have a reason to be found in food (as opposed to substances that do, such as additives, pesticide residues or veterinary drugs in foods- see ADI). (Source: GreenFacts)



Able to poison or harm an organism. Toxic substances can cause adverse health effects. (Source: GreenFacts)


The capacity or property of a substance to cause adverse effects. (Source: GreenFacts)



The study of the harmful effects of substances on humans or animals. (Source: ATSDR Glossary of Terms  )

Volatile organic compound

Any organic (carbon-containing) compound that evaporates readily to the atmosphere at room temperature.

VOCs contribute significantly to smog production and certain health problems.

VOCs often have odors, examples include gasoline, alcohol, and the solvents used in paints. (Source: GreenFacts)


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