How much plasticizer do we absorb via food?

Study identifies plasticizer exposure of Germans over the diet

Oil-containing ready meals and fatty sauces contain a lot of plasticizer © SXC
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Over food, we constantly take up even small amounts of plasticizer. How much and from which sources, a study of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has now determined. The result: For most people, the exposure to the softener DEHP is below the tolerable intake level. At least one percent, however, this limit is exceeded, the researchers report. Those concerned buy and eat a particularly large number of fatty sauces and ready meals containing high concentrations of plasticizers.

DEHP is the abbreviation for di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate. The substance is one of the most commonly used plasticizers. It keeps plastic products made of PVC supple. DEHP has been classified by the European Union, as well as some other phthalates, as toxic for reproduction: There is sufficient evidence to suggest that its hormone-like action may affect human reproductive ability and harm the development of infants in the womb. In toys or cosmetics, the plasticizer may therefore no longer be used. Measurements carried out by the Federal Environmental Agency from 2003 to 2006 carried out a children's environmental survey, however, pointing to an increase in the intake of DEHP in 1.5% of all children in Germany - but it was not clear by which route they had taken up the plasticizer.

The aim of the current study was therefore to determine the intake of the population to DEHP and, above all, to determine the intake pathways. The researchers collected data from the past 20 years on the nutrition of children, adolescents and adults in Germany. They also took into account the various absorption pathways across 37 food groups, toys, consumer products made of plastics such as footwear, cosmetics, textiles, house dust and the interior air of cars.

One percent takes up more than the limit

The result: Adolescents and adults in Germany absorb most of the plasticizer through food - currently an average of 13-21 micrograms of DEHP per kilogram of body weight. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has established a daily maximum level of 50 micrograms / kg body weight for this emollient that can be ingested for a lifetime without any adverse health effects (tolerable daily intake, TDI). For most Germans, the intake of the plasticizer through the diet is therefore below this limit. However, according to BfR estimates, it is exceeded by about one percent of consumers, as they consume a particularly large number of foods with very high DEHP contents.

By contrast, DEHP intake in children is only about half of that through food. Other entry paths are house dust and consumer products as well as toys. This particularly affects children who spend a lot of time on the floor. As a result, they can absorb more plasticizers than adolescents and adults. In the current study, the mean total exposure for children was 15-44 micrograms per kilogram of body weight and day. display

Greasy soups and ready meals are particularly stressed

Which foods contain DEHP? All staple foods such as meat, fat, cereals, fruits, vegetables and milk or dairy products may be contaminated with the chemical. Compared to loose, unprocessed goods, fat-containing candies such as mayonnaise and oleiferous finished products such as vegetables and fish from glasses and canned food had significantly higher DEHP values ​​in the study. Values ​​on. This is explained by the fact that foods absorb such plasticizers, in particular during processing or from their packaging.

In 2007, therefore, the use of DEHP in packaging of fatty foods was banned. From 2015, the plasticizer may no longer be used in the EU without authorization for the manufacture of consumer products under the EU chemicals regulation REACH. However, since the substance may still be imported by imported products and is widely used in the environment, it can not be excluded that traces of it may be found in food.

Prepare food fresh, change brands frequently

The intake of DEHP can be reduced in everyday life with simple consumption and hygiene measures. This includes that food is often prepared fresh, less finished products are used and product brands are changed more often. For the same foods can contain different amounts of DEHP depending on their origin. In addition, it is recommended to clean floors and carpets more frequently.

For toddlers, it is important that they only put things in their mouths that are intended for them. Although the substance has been banned in toys and children's articles since 1999, it is occasionally detected in such products, as shown by the messages of the European Rapid Alert System RAPEX. Even older toys that came on the market before the ban came into force may contain DEHP.

Questions and answers by BfR and UBA on phthalate plasticizers

(Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), 08.05.2013 - NPO)