Phthalate Testing

Inflatable Pool Toys Are Often Made From PVC Treated With A Phthalate-Based Plasticizer

ATS PERFORMS GC-MS ANALYSIS FOR PROP 65 PHTHALATES. WE HELP ENSURE PRODUCT COMPLIANCE BY DETERMINING PHTHALATE CONTENT AT THE PARTS-PER-BILLION (PPB) LEVEL.

Phthalates: A Profile

Phthalates are synthetic chemicals most often used as plasticizers. These additives give certain types of plastics, especially polyvinyl chloride (PVC), flexible properties. As such, plasticizers (and thus phthalates) appear often throughout our day-to-day lives; from inflatable products like mattresses and pool toys to insulation for electrical cords, plasticized PVC features heavily in consumer products.

Phthalates also cause a variety of negative, potentially deadly health effects in humans if we are exposed to too much or for too long. For that reason, various regulatory initiatives have restricted phthalates’ use.


About Proposition 65

One set of regulations governing phthalate use is California’s Proposition 65. A consumer safety initiative enacted in 1986, Prop 65 is made up of three laws, each of which deals with hazardous chemicals:

  • Firstly, the state is to generate and maintain an annually updated list of chemicals that the State has reason to believe causes an increased risk of cancer, developmental harm, or reproductive toxicity.
  • Secondly, Prop 65 prohibits the dumping of these listed chemicals into the public supply of drinking water.
  • And thirdly, it charges businesses with giving a "clear and reasonable warning" to any consumer or employee that may be exposed to a listed chemical via a product the business is selling or the workplace that they provide.

This final provision regarding warnings has become a source of friction between businesses and the State of California. If found to be noncompliant because they provide an inadequate warning, a business may be fined up to $2500 per day per violation.

The law itself outlines an appropriate warning as a label, prominently affixed to the product or workplace that could expose someone to one or more of the listed chemicals. There are exceptions to the labeling rule, however, in the form of Safe Harbor Levels (SHLs).


Safe Harbor Levels

An SHL is an exposure level below which a listed chemical has negligible or zero effect on human health. These values are derived from research presented to the administering body, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), by the same trusted sources that alert them to a chemical’s potential danger in the first place.

SHLs (continued)

SHLs are presented as maximum allowable dose levels (MADLs) for reproductive or developmental toxicants and no significant risk levels (NSRLs) for carcinogens.

If a company can prove that their product or workplace does not expose anyone to any listed chemical at a greater dose level than its SHL, they do not need to provide an accompanying warning label. Not every listed chemical has an associated MADL or NSRL, however, and so products containing these chemicals in any detectable amounts must be properly labeled to maintain Prop 65 compliance.


Regulated Phthalates

Due to extensive research on their varied negative effects, six phthalates are on the list of chemicals restricted by Prop 65: BBP (Butyl Benzyl Phthalate), DEHP (Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate), DIDP (Di-isodecyl Phthalate), DBP (Di-n-butyl Phthalate), DnHP (Di-n-hexyl Phthalate), and DINP (Diisononyl Phthalate).

Some of these compounds are listed as carcinogens, some as developmental hazards, and others as reproductive toxicants. They each have one or more associated SHLs, but they vary wildly from compound to compound — between 8.7 and 4200 micrograms per day.

To find out whether their phthalate-containing product requires a warning label or not, many companies send material samples to Applied Technical Services. We’re a testing lab that is well-versed in a variety of chemical analysis methods. With the help of a toxicologist, ATS can help determine whether a product needs to be labeled to maintain Prop 65 compliance


About Our Method: GC-MS

The method that we use to test for phthalates is called Gas-Chromatography / Mass-Spectroscopy (GC-MS). Using this test, ATS chemists can find detect and measure compounds of interest at the parts-per-billion (ppb) threshold, which yields a more comprehensive result than required by Prop 65.

We achieve these detection limits because of our chemistry team’s experience performing GC-MS to determine phthalate content according to the relevant standards EPA 3545A, EPA 8270D, and CPSC-CH-C1001-09.3. Our lab is A2LA accredited to perform CPSC-CH-C1001-09.3 for this specific purpose.


ATS and Compliance Testing

For over 50 years, ATS has delivered testing, inspection, and engineering consulting services of the greatest quality. We proudly serve clients from a variety of industries and who operate around the world. If your company needs phthalate testing for Prop 65 compliance, send your material sample to ATS — we take a closer look.


ATS partners with legal professionals, consumer advocacy groups, toxicologists, and manufacturers/importers to ensure Proposition 65 compliance.

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