A new study published September 16, 2014 in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Environment International finds recycling to contribute significantly to childhood phthalate exposure. In the study, Jihyun Lee from the Department of Environmental Science at Aarhus University, Denmark, and her colleagues investigated how strategies employed to reduce resource use influence human exposure to hazardous chemicals from material recycling. The researchers carried out a mass flow analysis of plastics and paper in Europe, including the flow of plasticizers. In particular, phthalates flows assessed in the study include di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), and benzyl-butyl phthalate (BBP). Further, an exposure study on 2-year old children in Denmark was carried out. The results showed that exposure to phthalates from recycled materials resulted in a significant increase in overall childhood exposure to DBP, amounting up to 18% of total DBP exposure. In order to increase recycling without adversely affecting human health, the authors propose a conceptual framework for a circular economy based on sustainable and clean resource flows.


Lee, J. et al. (2014). “The influence of resource strategies on childhood phthalate exposure—The role of REACH in a zero waste society.Environment International 73, 312-322.