Plasticisers (DEHP)


1. What is a clouding agent?
Clouding agent is a kind of food additive, which forms or maintains a uniform emulsion of two or more phases in a food. It is usually added to sports drink, fruit juice or fruit jelly to increase turbidity. It can also be added to yoghurt powder.   


2.What is di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP)?

DEHP is a colourless and odourless liquid. It is a type of phthalate plasticisers widely used in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products such as food packaging material, rainwear, footwear, medical devices and children’s toys.

The acute oral toxicity of DEHP is low. Monkey studies showed that most of DEHP and its metabolites were excreted through urine and faeces in 1-2 days.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified DEHP as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). There is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals but there is inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity in humans.


3. Are we exposed to DEHP in daily life?
DEHP is a kind of environmental hormone, its presence as a contaminant can be found in air, water, soil and food. It may also present in food due to migration from food contact materials. Exposure to DEPH is mainly via water and the food chain.


4. What is di-isononyl phthalate (DINP)?
DINP is a mixture. It is also a type of phthalate plasticizers which is used in PVC products, but it is not a food additive.

The acute toxicity of DINP is lower than DEHP, almost does not affect the reproduction and development of experimental animals. The EU has classified DINP as an environmental hormone but the United States and Japan have not classified it as environmental hormone.

DINP can be rapidly metabolized by the body, most of it excreted within 72 hours via faeces and the rest is excreted via urine.


5. Can DEHP and DINP be used in clouding agents?
No, as clouding agents do not contain DEHP or DINP. According to Taiwan Food and Drug Administration, there were manufacturers used DEHP and DINP in place of other food additives to formulate clouding agents in an attempt to reduce cost and increase stability of the product.


6. Will the affected product cause any adverse health effects?
Animal studies showed that DEHP underwent rapid metabolism and most of it and its metabolites were excreted through urine and faeces. Whether there will be health effects due to the consumption of affected product depends on the level of DEHP in the product, the amount and duration of consumption. Occasional consumption above the safety reference value is unlikely to cause any significant health risk provided that the average intake does not continuously exceed the safety reference value which emphasizes on a lifetime exposure.