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Dibutylphthalate

DBP, 1,2-Benzenecarboxylicacide, dibutyl ester

SPRI Emission Reporting Threshold
10.0 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Air
0.1 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Water
0.1 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Waste Water
Disclaimer
This sheet is a generic summary, designed to give the reader a basic level of background information about the substance in question. Great care has been taken to represent as effectively and correctly as possible the broad range of (not necessarily consistent) information which is available from a variety of sources. The reader must accept therefore that this sheet has no legal status and cannot be relied upon in any legal proceedings. SEPA disclaims any responsibility or liability whatsoever for errors and omissions in this sheet.
What is it?
Under normal environmental conditions, Dibutylphthalate (DBP) is a colourless or very faintly yellow, oily liquid which has a faint pleasant smell. DBP boils at 340 degrees celsius and does not evaporate easily. It is flammable and should not be exposed to open flames. DBP is only slightly soluble in water. DBP is part of a family of commercial chemicals called the "aesphthalates" or "aesphthalic acid esters".
What is it used for?
DBP has been used for a variety of applications, but production has been decreasing in recent years. One of the major uses is as an additive in plastics to make them more flexible. It has also been used to make carpet backing, adhesives, cosmetic products and as an additive in some fuels.
Where does it come from?
DBP is released during its manufacture and varied uses. It is also released when products containing it are disposed of, either by incineration or in landfills.
How might it affect the environment?
The main environmental concern associated with releases of DBP is that it may mimick the behaviour of animal hormones, it is an "endocrine disruptor". DBP breaks down fairly rapidly in air, water and soils, although this process may be considerably slowed when soils are water-logged and lacking oxygen. DBP does not accumulate significantly in the environment and is not transported over significant distances from its point of release. However, because of its widespread use, its possible effects on the hormone systems of wildlife cause concern at a global as well as local level.
How might exposure to it affect human health?
Dibutyl phthalate can enter the body by inhalation of air containing dibutyl phthalate, ingestion of water or food containing dibutyl phthalate or by dermal contact with dibutyl phthalate. Inhalation of high levels of dibutyl phthalate can cause irritation of the respiratory tract and eyes, nausea, vomiting, headache and dizziness. Exposure over long periods of time can result in liver and kidney damage. Ingestion of dibutyl phthalate may cause gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Dermal contact with dibutyl phthalate can cause skin irritation. Dibutyl phthalate can be absorbed through the skin however this process is very slow. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has not designated dibutyl phthalate in terms of its carcinogenicity. However, exposure to dibutyl phthalate at normal background levels is unlikely to have any adverse effect on human health.
What steps are being taken to limit the potential impacts?
Releases of DBP are controlled through the UK Pollution, Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations. At a European level, DBP is listed as a priority substance for risk assessment under EC law (793/93/EEC) and hence is subject to related risk reduction strategies. It is also listed as a priority substance for the EC Water Framework Directive. It is also regulated through the European Directive concerned with pollution of the aquatic environment (76/464/EEC). Internationally, it is listed as a candidate substance for inclusion in the OSPAR Convention which protects the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic Ocean.