Tris(2-ethylhexyl)phosphate is one of a family of triakyl phosphates that have been widely used as fire retardants and plasticizers. Another triakyl phosphate, tris(2,3-dibromopropyl)phosphate (Tris-BP), once used as a flame retardant in children's sleepwear, has been shown to be carcinogenic, but tris(2-ethylhexyl)phosphate has not been previously studied. Tris(2-ethylhexyl)phosphate, a clear, viscous liquid, is used as a component of vinyl stabilizers, grease additives, and flame-proofing compositions; however, it is used primarily as a plasticizer for vinyl plastic and synthetic rubber compounds. In 1974, approximately 3 million pounds of tris(2-ethylhexyl)phosphate was produced in the United States; imports during that year were negligible. Substantial human exposure probably occurs during production of tris(2-ethylhexyl)phosphate and during the manufacture and use of products containing it, but data on the magnitude of exposure are not available.
Two-year toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of tris(2-ethylhexyl)phosphate were conducted by administering the test chemical in corn oil by gavage, 5 days per week for 103 weeks, to groups of 50 male and 50 female F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice. Male rats received doses of 2,000 or 4,000 mg/kg body weight, female rats received 1,000 or 2,000 mg/kg, and male and female mice received 500 or 1,000 mg/kg. Fifty vehicle control animals of each sex and species received 10 ml/kg body weight (rats) or 3.3 ml/kg (mice) corn oil by gavage on the same schedule.
Inflammation of the gastric mucosa in mice and mild weight depression in rats and mice were the only dose-related effects observed in the preliminary studies. In the 2-year studies, survival rates and mean body weight gains of dosed female rats and dosed mice were comparable to those of their perspective controls. Survival rates of dosed male rats were comparable to that of the vehicle controls, but body weight gains were depressed. One nonneoplastic lesion, follicular cell hyperplasia of the thyroid, was observed at increased incidences in dosed male and female mice.
Two compound-related increased incidences of neoplasms could not be discounted. In male rats, the incidence of pheochromocytoma of adrenal glands increased with dose (2/50, 4%; 9/50, 18%; 12/50, 24%). There were also two additional malignant pheochromocytomas in the high dose group. However, the incidence of adrenal pheochromocytoma in vehicle controls of this study (2/50, 4%) was low compared with the 25% incidence observed in two previous studies in this laboratory or the overall historical incidence of 18% observed throughout the Program, and thus the evidence of carcinogenicity was considered to be equivocal. In female mice, the incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (0/48; 4/50; 7/50) in high dose animals (1,000 mg/kg) was significantly increased relative to that of the vehicle controls.
Decreased incidences were observed for acinar cell adenomas of the pancreas in dosed male rats (14/50, 28%; 5/48, 10%; 2/49, 4%) and for fibroadenomas of the mammary glands in low dose female rats (11/50, 22%; 2/50, 4%; 7/50, 14%). Hemangiosarcomas of the circulatory system in male mice (7/50, 14%; 0/50; 1/49, 2%) and lymphomas of the hematopoietic system in female mice (14/49, 29%; 10/50, 20%; 6/50, 12%) were decreased compared with vehicle controls. A decrease in the incidence of lymphomas and an increased incidence of carcinomas of the liver in female mice (both seen in this study) were observed in studies of di(2-ethylhexyl)adipate. Increased incidences of liver carcinomas and decreased incidences of mammary fibroadenomas were observed also in female rats in the di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate studies. A possible link among these three chemicals may be metabolic conversion to 2-ethylhexanol.
Tris(2-ethylhexyl)phosphate was not mutagenic in Salmonella typhimurium strains TA98, TA100, TA1535, or TA1537 in the presence or absence of 9000 x g (S9) fractions from Aroclor 1254-induced Sprague-Dawley rat or Syrian hamster liver.
An audit of the experimental data from these carcinogenesis studies was conducted by the National Toxicology Program. No data discrepancies were found that significantly influenced the final interpretations of these experiments.
Under the conditions of these studies, a comparison of concurrent and historical controls indicated that there was equivocal evidence of carcinogenicity in male F344/N rats receiving 2,000 and 4,000 mg/kg tris(2-ethylhexyl)phosphate, as evidenced by increased incidences of pheochromocytomas of the adrenal glands. There was no evidence of carcinogenicity in female F344/N rats or in male B6C3F1 mice receiving tris(2-ethylhexyl)phosphate. There was some evidence of carcinogenicity in female B6C3F1 mice that received 1,000 mg/kg tris(2-ethylhexyl)phosphate, as shown by an increased incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma. Tris(2-ethylhexyl)phosphate was associated with increased incidences of follicular cell hyperplasia of the thyroid gland in male and female B6C3F1 mice.