Nurses: Taking Precautionary Action on a Pediatric Environmental Exposure: DEHP

Anna Gilmore Hall


Pediatr Nurs. 2006;32(1):91-93. 

In This Article

What It Is

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is one of the most widely used plastics in medical care, used in everything from blood bags to exam gloves. Because this type of plastic is naturally hard and brittle, chemicals are added to make it soft and flexible. Medical products made of PVC are usually softened with a plasticizer from the family of chemicals known as phthalates (pronounced THAH-lates).

Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, is the specific phthalate commonly used in PVC to provide flexibility and resistance to temperature fluctuations. DEHP can be found in a wide variety of medical products, such as bags containing blood, plasma, intravenous fluids, and total parenteral nutrition, tubing associated with their administration, nasogastric tubes, enteral feeding tubes, umbilical catheters, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) circuit tubing, hemodialysis tubing, respiratory masks, endotracheal tubes, and examination gloves (Green et al., 2005).

Outside the health care setting, people are exposed to DEHP and other phthalates from a variety of sources, including PVC toys, vinyl shower curtains, car seats, wallpaper, floor coverings, and many other consumer products.


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