Health Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Help the Government of Canada organize its website! Complete an anonymous 5-minute questionnaire. Start now.
About Health Canada

Phthalates Regulations

Fact Sheet
January 2011

News Release: Harper Government Takes Action to Reduce Children's Exposure to Phthalates

What are phthalates?

Phthalates are a family of chemicals commonly used as plasticizers that have a large number of industrial and commercial applications. Phthalates are added to vinyl plastic to make it both soft and flexible.

What are the health risks?

Research shows that phthalates may adversely affect reproduction and development.

With respect to soft vinyl (polyvinyl chloride or PVC) products, it is important to note that the mere presence of phthalates in the soft vinyl does not equate to a health risk. For example, touching or licking soft vinyl does not constitute a health risk. It is the amount of phthalates that leach out of the soft vinyl and migrate into the body that can be harmful. Phthalates leach out of soft vinyl during periods of sustained mouthing action (sucking and chewing) that occurs on a daily basis, and migrate into the body through the saliva.

What is Health Canada doing?

Health Canada has announced new regulations that will restrict the allowable concentrations of di 2-ethylhexl phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) to no more than 1,000 mg/kg (0.1%) in the soft vinyl of all children's toys and child care articles. They will also restrict the allowable concentrations of diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) and di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP) to no more than 1,000 mg/kg (0.1%) in the soft vinyl of children's toys and child care articles where the soft vinyl can, in a reasonably foreseeable manner, be placed in the mouth of a child under four years (48 months) of age.

These regulations will ensure that children's toys and child care articles imported, sold or advertised in Canada do not present a risk of phthalate exposure to young children.

What should parents and caregivers do with older soft vinyl toys?

Health Canada advises parents and caregivers to monitor their children's use of soft vinyl (PVC) toys not specifically designed for sucking and chewing (such as vinyl bibs and bath, squeeze or inflatable toys), and to remove these products from the child's environment if they observe the child sucking or chewing on them for extended periods.