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Massachusetts Department of Public Health seal Massachusetts Environmental Public Health Tracking

Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is a manufactured chemical that is added to plastics and polymers such as PVC, rubber, cellulose, and styrene to make them softer and more flexible. It is a colorless, odorless liquid and is present in many plastic products such as shower curtains, garden hoses, medical tubing, and some toys.

Did You Know?
DEHP evaporates slowly in air and dissolves slowly in water, so exposure is not common. However, wells near waste sites may have higher levels of contamination with higher levels of exposure if used as a drinking water source.

DEHP is found everywhere in the environment due to its widespread use in plastics. However, it is not thought to be toxic at the low levels usually found in the environment. While exposure to DEHP is typically very low, it can increase by drinking contaminated water. The primary source of DEHP in drinking water is through discharge from rubber and chemical factories. Water systems located near waste sites for these factories are at highest risk of contamination with DEHP.

Exposure to DEHP above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) can have negative health effects. The majority of these health effects are caused by high levels of exposure or exposure over a prolonged period of time. At normal low levels in the environment, DEHP is not believed to cause any adverse health effects. People who drink water contaminated with DEHP for many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys, thyroid hormone, or reproductive systems. There may also be reproductive or developmental effects in the children of women who are highly exposed while pregnant or breast-feeding, particularly male offspring. There is some evidence that high exposures to DEHP may be associated with asthma in children. DEHP may also cause an increased risk of developing cancer at high level exposures.

Note: Several studies have shown associations between DEHP exposure and human health effects, but no causal link has yet been established and data are still limited. Consequently, data on health effects of DEHP exposure come primarily from animal studies.

Data Considerations

When reviewing and interpreting drinking water DEHP data, it is important to take into consideration the following:

  • The data presented are for public water systems only. Residents may have exposure to DEHP from private well water.
  • Exposure to DEHP in drinking water depends upon the concentration of DEHP in the drinking water and the amount of water consumed by the individual. Water consumption varies by such factors as climate and level of physical activity.
  • Many factors can affect whether exposure can lead to a health problem, including level of contamination, amount of water consumed, and the length of time water was contaminated. Some populations may be more susceptible to health problems following exposure, such as pregnant woman, children, and immune suppressed individuals.
  • This website provides a summary of drinking water violations by community. Consumer Confidence Reports on public drinking water quality are required to be provided annually to consumers. Your Community Water System should be contacted for this report, which will provide more detailed information on any specific water system violations.
  • Community Water Systems (CWSs) can serve areas substantially beyond the boundaries of the principal city/town served.
  • Multiple CWSs can serve the same city/town and multiple cities/towns can be served by a single.
  • For a list of all Massachusetts Community Water Systems and communities served, click here (pdf).Adobe PDF Icon

For additional information, please read the FAQ.

Available Data on Water Quality Measures for DEHP

Click the Explore Maps & Tables link button on this page to access the following measures for DEHP in your community. The most current available data will be shown. Be sure to check the site periodically as new data are added each year.

To protect privacy, no information is shown that could identify an individual home or family.

  • Maximum DEHP concentration by number of Community Water Systems and year of testing
  • Mean DEHP concentration by number of Community Water Systems and year of testing
  • Maximum DEHP concentration by number of people served by the Community Water Systems and year of testing
  • Mean DEHP concentration by number of people served by the Community Water Systems and year of testing
  • Mean DEHP concentration by individual Community Water System, county, and year of testing
  • Drinking water violations by Community Water System, community, and year of violation

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