Expert assessment
2 min

Triphenyl phosphate, an endocrine disruptor for species in the environment

Triphenyl phosphate is a substance used as a flame retardant and/or plasticiser in a wide variety of materials and equipment. In view of its endocrine-disrupting properties for species in the environment, which have been determined mainly in fish, the Agency is proposing to identify triphenyl phosphate as a substance of very high concern, within the meaning of the European REACH Regulation. The aim is to better regulate the use of this chemical on the European continent. This ANSES proposal is available for public consultation on the website of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) until 15 April, to give stakeholders the opportunity to provide additional data.

Triphenyl phosphate is used as a flame retardant and/or plasticiser in a wide variety of applications, including polymer preparations, adhesives, sealants, textiles, construction materials, electronic equipment such as computers, cosmetics and personal care products. This substance also occurs as an impurity in many other organophosphate flame retardants, and is often found inside homes.

Triphenyl phosphate, an endocrine disruptor found in the environment

As part of France’s National Endocrine Disruptor Strategy, ANSES assessed triphenyl phosphate's endocrine-disrupting potential. On the basis of the available scientific data, the Agency determined that this substance met all the hazard criteria needed for it to be defined as an endocrine disruptor according to the WHO definition and the 2013 recommendations of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, namely:

  • endocrine activity, and more specifically oestrogenic, androgenic and/or steroidogenic activity, clearly demonstrated both in vitro and in vivo in fish;
  • adverse effects impairing the fertility and reproductive capacity of fish;
  • a biologically plausible link between the endocrine activity and adverse effects mentioned above.

Triphenyl phosphate can therefore have severe effects on fish and potentially on other animals, and can negatively affect the survival of species naturally present in the environment.

Adverse effects on fish reproduction have been observed at concentrations that may be found in the environment. In addition, the available data show that triphenyl phosphate has been detected not only in wildlife but also in human biological fluids, combined with other organophosphate products contained in flame retardants. These co-exposures are cause for additional concern.

The endocrine-disrupting properties of triphenyl phosphate are of sufficient concern to identify it as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) under the REACH Regulation.

This identification is intended to better regulate the use of this chemical in the European Union. It would give this hazard property regulatory recognition, meaning that it must be taken into account in the risk assessments conducted by manufacturers to define the conditions for safe use of the substance. This regulatory recognition would also create the obligation to notify the presence of the substance above 0.1% by mass in articles manufactured or imported into Europe, and to inform users of its presence in articles containing more than 0.1% of the substance.

In France, from 1 January 2023, the AGEC Act has required consumers to be informed about the environmental qualities and characteristics of waste-generating products, including the presence of hazardous substances. As a result, the words "contains a substance of very high concern" will have to be applied to articles on the market containing an SVHC.

The identification dossier proposed by ANSES is available for public consultation on the website of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) until 15 April.