Publications : 2012

Ball GL, McLellan CJ, Bhat VS. 2012. Toxicological review and oral risk assessment of terephthalic acid (TPA) and its esters: A category approach. Crit Rev Toxicol 42:28-67.


Polyethylene terephthalate, a copolymer of terephthalic acid (TPA) or dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) with ethylene glycol, has food, beverage, and drinking water contact applications. Di-2-ethylhexyl terephthalate (DEHT) is a plasticizer in food and drinking water contact materials. Oral reference doses (RfDs) and total allowable concentrations (TACs) in drinking water were derived for TPA, DMT, and DEHT. Category RfD and TAC levels were also established for nine C1–C8 terephthalate esters. The mode of action of TPA, and of DMT, which is metabolized to TPA, involves urinary acidosis, altered electrolyte elimination and hypercalciuria, urinary supersaturation with calcium terephthalate or calcium hydrogen terephthalate, and crystallization into bladder calculi. Weanling rats were more sensitive to calculus formation than dams. Calculi-induced irritation led to bladder hyperplasia and tumors in rats fed 1000 mg/kg-day TPA. The lack of effects at 142 mg/kg-day supports a threshold for urine saturation with calcium terephthalate, a key event for calculus formation. Chronic dietary DMT exposure in rodents caused kidney inflammation, but not calculi. Chronic dietary DEHT exposure caused general toxicity unrelated to calculi, although urine pH was reduced suggesting the TPA metabolite was biologically-active, but of insufficient concentration to induce calculi. Respective oral reference doses of 0.5, 0.5, and 0.2 mg/kg-day and total allowable drinking water concentrations of 3, 3, and 1 mg/L were derived for TPA, DMT, and DEHT. An oral RfD of 0.2 mg/kg-day for the terephthalate category chemicals corresponded to a drinking water TAC of 1 mg/L.