Cancer-Causing Chemical Elusive on EPA Toxic List Despite Known Risks

DINP is one of a group of chemicals called phthalates that makes plastic more pliable and had once been promoted as a green alternative.

However, this cancer-causing chemical was to be flagged on the EPA’s toxic inventory list of chemicals it monitors in 2000 because it also can interfere with hormonal functioning, and so little was known about its emissions at the time.

But it’s still not on the list, according to The Intercept.

EPA at the time noted in the Federal Register that science led to the decision to include DINP on the Toxics Release Inventory list: “The toxicity data clearly indicates that DINP is known to cause or can reasonably be anticipated to cause cancer and other serious or irreversible chronic liver, kidney, and developmental toxicity in humans.”

However, more than 20 years later, DINP remains absent from the list and the EPA has never finalized the rule to include it. In fact, companies have continued to crank out DINP in astonishing amounts as well as other chemicals in the same class, without having to disclose how much facilities make or emit.

One of the first phthalates to raise concerns was DEHP, which was replaced in hundreds of consumer products with DINP. Today, more is known about the effects of DINP on humans and animals. In addition to cancer and hormone disruption, DINP affects the sexual development of children, including decreasing sperm mobility, malformations of the testes and other organs, and infertility.

Experiments on lab rats also showed that those exposed to DINP in the womb had reproductive malformations and developed female-like body parts. DINP has also been linked to high blood pressure and insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes.

About a half-billion pounds of phthalates are made and used in the U.S. each year, according to the EPA. They are used to make plastics more flexible and durable, and also used as solvents. The chemicals are used in products that include car interiors, floor tiles, raincoats, nail polish, perfume and other cosmetics, synthetic leathers and food packaging.

Studies of phthalates have linked them to birth defects, fertility problems, miscarriages, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and liver cancer. Exposure to the chemicals in the womb or early childhood has also been linked to learning, attention, and behavior problems, lower IQ, memory problems, and autism, rates of which have recently reached record highs.

Human exposure to phthalates is practically unavoidable, Maricel Maffini, a researcher who has studied endocrine-disrupting chemicals for 15 years, told The Intercept, calling phthalates “everywhere chemicals.”

“The exposure is constant,” she added.

But companies that make the chemicals have continued to insist that they are safe and efforts to force the EPA and the Food and Drug Administration to limit their exposure have remained at a standstill. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Congress banned the use of eight phthalates in children’s toys, yet the FDA still allows them in food production.

Now environmental groups are suing to force both agencies to finally regulate the chemicals.

In September, Earthjustice sued the EPA on behalf of communities living near facilities that import or manufacture large amounts of DINP to force the agency to finally add the chemical to the Toxics Release Inventory.  Earthjustice also sued the FDA in December on behalf of environmental groups, demanding that the agency take action on phthalates, a repeated request.

The suit said that “ingestion of food and drinks contaminated by phthalates is the primary way that most people in the United States — including children — are exposed to most phthalates” and asks the court to remedy the FDA’s “years-long unreasonable delay” and make the agency act on its 2016 petition within 60 days.

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