Scientists from the German Environment Agency (UBA) have published a study in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Pollution investigating trends of plasticizer concentrations in German freshwater environments. The study analyzed water samples taken over the past 10 years at 13 sites in large river basins across Germany. Suspended particle matter samples from the sites were analyzed for concentrations of 23 plasticizers (including 17 phthalates and 6 non-phthalates).

The study found evidence for the substitution of the previously widely-used plasticizer di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP; CAS 117-81-7) with alternative chemicals – the primary substitute likely being di(2-propylheptyl) phthalate (DPHP; CAS 53306-54-0). DEHP had been heavily marketed until 1999 when regulations limited its use as concerns regarding environmental and human health effects accumulated. In 2015 it was restricted through its recognition as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) in the EU. In accordance with this timeline, DEHP concentrations were observed to decrease between the mid-2000s and 2017, with the highest concentration measured in 2006 at 6,720 ng/g dry weight and dropping to 2,080 ng/g by 2017. In contrast, significant increases in DPHP concentrations were observed at most sites between the mid-2000s and 2017, with one site reporting an increase from 24 ng/g to 1,380 ng/g. DPHP is currently set to be reviewed by the German authorities in 2020 under the EU’s community rolling action plan (CoRAP) due to initial grounds of concern for being an endocrine disruptor.

With regard to other substances, diisononyl phthalate (DINP; CAS 28553-12-0) was found to be the phthalate with currently the highest concentrations. Presence of the non-phthalate diisononylcyclohexane-1,2-dicarboxylate (DINCH; CAS 474919-59-0) in the environment was found to spread quickly upon its market introduction as another DEHP alternative. DINCH was detectable at all sites above the limit of quantification in 2017.

Overall, the authors found that the total burden of plasticizers in the environment has barely changed between the mid-2000s and 2017.

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Andrew Turley (March 5, 2020). “German study suggests DPHP is ‘main substitute’ for plasticiser DEHP.” Chemical Watch


Nagorka R. and Koschorreck J. (February 20, 2020). “Trends for plasticizers in German freshwater environments – Evidence for the substitution of DEHP with emerging phthalate and non-phthalate alternatives.” Environmental Pollution, 262.