Phthalates in preschool dust : the relation between phthalates and parameters in the preschool environment

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för biologisk grundutbildning


Children are constantly exposed to many chemicals via the products they come in contactwith in their everyday life. One chemical group is phthalates, the most commonly usedplasticisers in the world. Phthalates are used mainly in PVC plastic products like floors, toys,food containers and wallpaper but they are also used in rubber, glue, paint, cables etc. Sincethese chemicals are weakly chemically bound to the PVC they can leak and migrate to the air,food, water and skin. Children are exposed to phthalates mainly through food, but because ofthe hand to mouth behaviour they are also exposed via dust inhalation and dust ingestion.About ten years ago regulations of the most toxic phthalates in toys and child care productswere implemented in the EU and from February 2015 it is a general prohibition for the use ofDEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate), DnBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DiBP (diisobutyl phthalate) andBBzP (butyl benzyl phthalate). DiNP (diisononyl phthalate) is a relatively new phthalate andit has replaced DEHP to some extent in floors and toys. In phthalate free products DINCH(1,2-cyclohexane dicarboxylic acid diisononyl ester) is one of the plasticizer replacingphthalates. The banned phthalates have been shown to cause adverse effects on reproductionand recent research also investigates links between phthalate exposure and asthma and allergysymptoms in children. More experimental animal studies are needed to further investigate theasthma and allergy correlation.

In the present project dust samples were collected from 30 preschool indoor environments inthe Stockholm city area to evaluate the levels of the six substances mentioned and thephthalate DEP (diethyl phthalate). The main aim of this thesis project was to search forrelations and links between the phthalate concentrations in dust and parameters from theindoor environment in preschools. Studied parameters are e.g. construction year, floor type,cleaning routines and quantity of toys and furniture made of plastic or foam. The project wascommissioned by the Swedish EPA and performed at the Institute of Environmental Medicine(IMM) at Karolinska Institutet.

A negative relation was found between dust phthalate (DEHP and DnBP) concentrationand construction year. Also rooms with old PVC floors had higher concentrations of DEHPand DnBP in dust than rooms with new PVC floors. There was also a trend that dust frompreschools with PVC floors had higher DiNP concentration than dust from preschools withother floor types. The preschools that used foam mattresses for resting had higher DiNPconcentrations than those with no foam mattresses. Most preschools had new foammattresses, which could indicate a more common use of DiNP in new mattresses or mattress2covers compared to old mattresses that contains more DEHP. The four Waldorf preschoolsthat participated had lower DiNP dust concentrations than the other preschools, which wasexpected since Waldorf orientation includes using as little plastic material as possible. Norelation was found between the phthalate dust concentrations and the quantity of toys made ofsoft plastic in the sampled area.

Many preschools had made a plastic inventory where they removed old and soft plastic toysand material. Also many preschools recently replaced old foam mattresses used for resting.This could be due to the big chemical focus in the media and authorities and the brochuresthat have been sent out the last couple of years about what preschool can do to decrease thechemical exposure of children. This interest and awareness seen in the preschools waspositive and hopefully the trend spreads to more preschools. Since children spend a big part oftheir time at preschools it is an important mission for society and the government to decreasethe exposure to hazardous chemicals there. Hopefully what has been done so far is just thebeginning.

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