Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are produced in very large quantities and are contained in numerous everyday products.
Most phthalates are used as plasticizers in PVC, which is hard and brittle without this additive. The concentration of phthalate plasticizers in soft PVC amounts to thirty percent on average and can reach levels of up to sixty percent.
Up until now, the main phthalates used have been DEHP, DINP, DIDP and adipates such as DEHA (see examples). Countless articles of daily use and household materials are made of soft PVC, for example, floor coverings, carpet backing, wallpaper, cables, shower curtains, tablecloths, shoe soles, protective gloves, toys, coated textiles, garden hoses, etc.
Soft PVC is also found in many medical products such as blood bags, infusion bags, dialysis bags, urine bags, catheters, gloves and contact lenses.
DEP (Diethyl phthalate): Printing inks, pesticides, cosmetics (film formers), perfumes, deodorants, solvents, denaturants for alcohol, pharmaceutical products
DBP (Di-n-butyl phthalate): Cellulose plastics, printer inks, dispersion paints, varnish, also nail polish, glues, adhesive tape, anti-foaming agents, cosmetics, perfumes, deodorants, wetting agents in the textile industry, pharmaceutical products, packaging
BBP (Benzylbutylphthalate): foamed PVC, transformer fluid, sealants, cosmetics (film formers), packaging, imitation leather
DCHP (Dicyclohexyl phthalate): PVC
DIBP (Diisobutyl phthalate): PVC
DEHP (Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate): PVC, rubber, other plastics
DNOP (Di (n-octyl) phthalate): PVC, capacitor fluid, wetting agents in pesticides, cosmetics
DINP (Diisononyl phthalate): PVC, rubber, inks, dispersion paints, sealing agents, varnish, (food) packaging, automobile components
DIDP (Diisodecyl phthalate): PVC, dispersion paints, varnish, emulsifiers, packaging
DMP (Dimethyl phthalate): Cosmetics, perfumes, deodorants, pharmaceutical products
Effects on body, health, environment
There is no chemical bond between phthalates and the PVC with which they have been mixed. Consequently, they can evaporate or be leached out of the plastic and migrate to food. Thus they also enter the body: through respiration, ingestion in food, and skin exposure.
The various phthalates are reputed to have varying levels of negative effects on human health, e.g., effects on endocrine balance and reproductive capacity, disruption of the immune and nervous systems, and detrimental effects on the environment (e.g., water pollution). Therefore, several restrictions and bans were enacted as the level of knowledge about long-term effects increased.
Because of their hazardous properties, the use of DEHP and DBP in cosmetics was banned in the EU. In the EU, the use of these harmful substances in all consumer products has been restricted since December, 2004 and banned completely in children’s toys since 2006. For some time now, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has discouraged the use of DEHP in contact with food. The EU threshold is 1.5 mg/kg. The 4th Commission Directive 2007/19/EC amending the Plastics Directive 2007/19/EC set additional limits, banning the use of certain phthalates as plasticizers in PVC-based seals of closures that come into contact with food while establishing stringent migration thresholds for others. This has also applied to metal twist closures since the directive took effect in April, 2009.
Thus for many years now, the search has been on for alternatives, for example, ESBO (epoxidized soybean oil, a derivative of fatty acids) or DINCH (1,2-Cyclohexane dicarboxylic acid diisononyl ester). Up until now, both of these plasticizers were considered safe. However, fact is that they, too, are fat-soluble and thus can migrate to food. So one thing is clear for the future: in the long term, only plasticizer- and PVC-free alternatives will fulfill the provisions of EU and national legislation as well as the general responsibility to protect consumers. One of these solutions is PROVALIN® (LINK), the TPE sealant for metal twist closures from ACTEGA DS.