Introduction: What are phthalates?
plasticisers that are added to
other materials to make them softer and more flexible.
They are widely used in a range of
polymers such as
PVC that are found in a wide
variety of consumer products including floor- and wall covering,
furnishing, toys, car interior, clothing, hoses etc.
Phthalates are also added to paints
and lacquers, adhesives and
sealants, printing inks etc.
Because phthalates are not
chemically bound to the material they are added to, they can be released
from the products that contain them, for instance into water and air.
The emission of phthalates occurs during all the stages of the life
cycle of a product from production,
through use, to disposal. There is public concern about phthalates
because of their widespread use and occurrence in the environment as
well as their potential effects on human health.
A range of different phthalates
exist, which each have specific properties, applications, and potential
Table: Some examples of phthalates and their applications
Five of the most widely used
phthalates are di-(2-ethylhexyl)
phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate
(DBP), di-isononyl phthalate
(DINP), di-isodecyl phthalate
(DIDP) and benzyl butyl phthalate
(BBP). These phthalates have been
assessed within an EU program on
Risk Assessment for new and
existing chemical substances.
By 2004, the final reports on DBP,
DINP had been published. The
content of these reports was summarised by GreenFacts.
In Europe, between 1990 and 1995, the average annual consumption of
plasticisers was 970 000
tonnes, of which 894 000 tonnes
were phthalates. For comparison,
the worldwide plasticiser
consumption is estimated at 3.5 million tonnes.
Approximation of the relative importance of the consumption of four of the main phthalates in the European Union in the 1990s
Because of the strong similarities between
DINP, they will be described
together for the rest of the present study. The three
phthalates described in this study
are used mainly as plasticisers in
PVC products. The total amount of
these phthalates produced for use in PVC in Western Europe was 877 000
tonnes in 1994, of which 191 000
tonnes was DIDP, 101 500 tonnes was DINP, and around 18 000 tonnes was
It should be noted that in 2008 the EU Risk Assessments on the most commonly used phthalate, DEHP (51% in the 1990s), and on BBP have been released.
The Risk Assessment Reports (not yet summarised by GreenFacts) are available on the website of the European Chemicals Bureau:
The same information on