Diethyl Phthalate in Fragrance Oils – Use, Dangers and Control

April 03, 2014

Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is a liquid plasticiser used in manufacturing plastics and maintaining the structural integrity of plastics. In household detergents and personal care products DEP is used as a plasticiser and also as a carrier for fragrance material. Physical properties such as density, solubility, boiling point, vapour pressure and viscosity of DEP favours the use as a vehicle for fragrance material. Certain synthetic chemicals could be dissolved in DEP together with inexpensive essential oils to forge authentic natural products.

Attar is a traditional perfume made in India using sandalwood oil as the base for floral essential oils. Unverified sources suggest that some counterfeit Attar manufacturers are using DEP to replace sandalwood oil. This use of DEP as a replacement for sandalwood oil did not stop in Attar formulation, it has entered the incense industry and even to herbal products. In recent times DEP was seen in insect repellent coils, sticks and sprays sold in Australia.

In Australia DEP is a regulated compound, the limits are prescribed for plastics infant products and limits to be sued in personal cosmetics. The US department of Health’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has limited the exposure to maximum of 5 mg/m3 for 10 hours; moreover it was clearly stated that incineration of DEP containing products could produce toxic volatiles material.

Reproductive toxicity DEP has been established on animal experimental models. Currently DEP is not considering as a potent toxic or a carcinogenic compounds. However it is a regulated compound which is considered as a potential hazard to human health and environment.

  1. National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assesement Scheme; Diethyl Phthalate (2011). Department of Health and Ageing, Australia.
  2. Sekizawa, J.; Concise International Chemical Assessment Document 52: Diethyl Phthalate (2003). World Health Organisation, Switzerland.
  3. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; International Chemical safety cards; Diethyl Phthalate (2001). ICSC:NENG0258. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, United States of America.
  4. Public Health Service Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; Toxicological Profile for Diethyl Phthalate (1995). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  5. Gray, T.J.B., Gangoli, S.D.; Aspects of the Testicular Toxicity of Phthalate Esters (1986). Environmental Health Perspectives, 65; 229-235.
  6. Api, A.M.; Toxicology profile of Dietheyl Phthalate: a vehicle for fragrance and sometic ingredients (2001). Food Chemical and Toxicology, 39; 97-108.
  7. Isman, M.B; Botanical Insecticides, Deterrents and repellents in Modern Agriculture and an increasingly regulated world (2005) Annu. Rev. Entomol. 51; 45-66.

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