DEHP in the atmosphere is present either as a gas or attached to solid particles. The gas breaks down relatively quickly ( 1 or 2 days) due to the action of other chemicals in the atmosphere. The solid particles are estimated to be removed from the atmosphere in a period of two to three weeks by various mechanisms including precipitation, wash out by rain and reaction with other chemicals. DEHP is slightly persistent in the environment. Small organisms in surface water or soil break it down into harmless compounds. It doesn't break down easily in deep soil, or in lake or river bottoms. It is in plants, fish, and other animals, but animals high on the food chain are able to breakdown DEHP, so tissue levels are usually low.
Phthalate is slightly persistent in water but will break down in a few months.
Entering the environment
DEHP from plastic materials, coatings, and flooring can increase indoor air levels. It dissolves faster in water if gas, oil, or paint removers are present. DEHP in the particle-phase is subject to wet and dry deposition. It will be transported in food chain though it will ultimately be broken down and does not tend to bioaccumulate though the concentration of DEHP in fish is expected to be much higher then the concentration in water in which the fish live.
Where it ends up
About 42.8% of DEHP will eventually end up in terrestrial soil; about 40% will end up in aquatic sediments; and about 17% will end up in air.
Australian Water Quality Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Waters (ANZECC, 1992):
Maximum 0.6 micrograms per litre (ie 0.0000006g/L) in fresh water.
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