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Phthalate Plasticizers. CE 435 Introduction to Polymers Brian Amato Sarah Karl Carla Ng. Timeline (history). European Parliament calls for alternatives to phthalates. IARC Re-classifies DEHP as non-carcinogenic. First Plasticizer. DEHP Declared Carcinogenic. Phthalates Introduced. 1860.

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Phthalate plasticizers
Phthalate Plasticizers

CE 435 Introduction to Polymers

Brian Amato

Sarah Karl

Carla Ng

Timeline history
Timeline (history)

European Parliament calls for alternatives to phthalates

IARC Re-classifies DEHP as non-carcinogenic


DEHP Declared Carcinogenic

Phthalates Introduced







  • Health Concerns

  • Science and Industry Response

  • Government Positions

  • Health or Hype?

  • Conclusions.

  • Introduction

  • A Plasticizer Timeline

  • Theory

  • What are Phthalate Plasticizers(and why do we care)?

  • The Plasticizer Market


  • What is a plasticizer?

  • Where are they commonly found?

General definition
General Definition

  • A Plasticizer is a polymer additive.

  • Effect on polymer properties: an important distinction from other additives.

  • Increases polymer flexibility, elongation or workability.

Types of plasticizer i
Types of Plasticizer (I)

  • Internal vs. External

    • Internal plasticization occurs via chemical interactions.

      • Copolymerization is one type of internal plasticization.

    • External plasticization occurs via physical interactions.

      • External is the most common: cost, ease of processing.

Types of plasticizer ii
Types of Plasticizer (II)

  • Primary vs. Secondary

    • Primary Plasticizer affects resin properties.

    • Secondary is a “Plasticizer-plasticizer”: used to increase the effectiveness of the primary plasticizer.

Plasticizers in pvc

Cling-film for food packaging.

Medical devices: blood bags, IV bags, tubing.

Vinyl floors.

Synthetic leather.

Electrical Cables.

Toys: teethers for infants and Ernie’s favorite bath-time companion.

Plasticizers In PVC

Plasticizers all around us
Plasticizers All Around Us

  • Non-PVC Uses

    • Liquid plasticizers used in coating to protect car chassis.

    • Paints.

    • Printing Inks.

    • Adhesives.

Plasticizer theory
Plasticizer Theory

Three Mechanisms:

  • Lubricity Theory

  • Gel Theory

  • Free-Volume Theory

Lubricity theory
Lubricity Theory

  • Assumes the rigidity of the resin (pure polymer) arises from “intermolecular friction.”

  • Plasticizer molecules are introduced on heating.

  • At room temperature, these molecules act as lubricants for the polymer chains.

Gel theory
Gel Theory

  • Resin-resin interactions occur at “centers of attachment.”

  • Plasticizer molecules break these interactions and masks the centers from each other, preventing re-formation.

  • This theory is not sufficient to describe interaction– should be combined with Lubricity Theory.

Free volume theory
Free-Volume Theory

  • Free volume: “internal space” available in the polymer for the chains to move.

  • This volume increases sharply at the glass transition temperature, Tg.

  • Plasticizer is meant to decrease the glass transition temperature, imparting increased flexibility to polymer at room temperature.

Choosing your plasticizer
Choosing Your Plasticizer

  • Effectiveness Considerations

    • How Much Plasticizer Necessary

    • Interaction Parameters: Our Friends Flory and Huggins.

  • Application Considerations:

    • Temperature Range

    • Degree of Flexibility Desired

  • Phthalates: the #1 Choice for PVC

Plasticizer market
Plasticizer Market

  • Yearly Plasticizer Production

    • Plasticizers are the largest class of polymer additives produced.

    • Global volume of 10 billion lbs in 1999

    • $5 billion value with 2-3% yearly market growth.

  • <1% of Phthalates produced are used in children’s toys.

  • 10% are used in medical applications.

Phthalate plasiticizers
Phthalate Plasiticizers

  • What are they Chemically Speaking?

    • A Phthalate ester derived from phthalic acid by an esterification reaction.

    • Mechanism: phthalic acid to phthalate ester


Phthalate plasiticizers1
Phthalate Plasiticizers

  • Properties

    • Colorless

    • Oily liquid ( like vegetable oil)

    • Ester odor

    • High boiling point

    • Inert, and very stable over long periods

Phthalate plasiticizers2
Phthalate Plasiticizers

  • Types:

  • DEHP (Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate)

    • Structure

Phthalate plasiticizers3
Phthalate Plasiticizers

  • Properties of DEHP

    • Insoluble in H2o

    • Soluble in mineral oil, hexane, most organic solvents

    • Easily dissolved in bodily fluids, such as saliva and plasma.

    • Boiling point: 386.9oc

    • Density: 0.9732 g/L

    • Molecular weight: 390.5618 g/mol

Phthalate plasiticizers4
Phthalate Plasiticizers

  • Uses of DEHP:

    • Used in medical devices

    • Toys

    • Pacifiers

    • Vinyl Upholstery

    • Food containers

    • Table cloths

    • Shower curtains

    • Raincoats ( and the list goes on……..)

Phthalate plasiticizers5
Phthalate Plasiticizers

  • DINP (Diisononyl Phthalate)

    • Structure

Phthalate plasiticizers6
Phthalate Plasiticizers

  • Properties of DINP

    • Insoluble in H2O

    • Soluble in most organic solvents

    • Boiling point: not available

    • Density: not available

    • Molecular weight: 418.6 g/mol

Phthalate plasiticizers7
Phthalate Plasiticizers

  • Uses of DINP:

    • Replaced DEHP in toys when initially determined to be carcinogenic.

Uses of dehp in medical devices
Uses of DEHP in Medical Devices

  • Phthalates (DEHP) in Medical Devices:

    • Blood Storage Bags

    • IV Bags

    • Catheters

    • Dialysis tubing

  • Benefits:

    • Why is DEHP used?

      • Cost efficiency

      • Safety

      • Resists kinking

Uses of dehp in medical devices1
Uses of DEHP in Medical Devices

  • Long shelf life

  • Transparent

  • Withstands high pressures without leaking

  • Withstands both freezing and steam sterilization

  • Collapse when empty, therefore they do not have to be injected with sterile air to replace the blood or fluid being withdrawn.

Uses of dehp in medical devices2
Uses of DEHP in Medical Devices

  • Other convincing reasons

    • DEHP contributes to the extended storage of red blood cells.

    • Doubles shelf life compared to other plasitcizers.

    • 5-7 billion patient days of exposure without any reported adverse health effects

Health concerns
Health Concerns

  • DEHP is a Carcinogen?

    • Studies in the early 1980’s on the effects of DEHP on rodents by U.S National Toxicology Program and International Agency for Research show carcinogenic effect.

    • Scientific papers give rise to concerns of reduced sperm counts from phthalates, due to the endocrine disruption theory.

Health concerns1
Health Concerns

  • Concerns Abated:

    • The International Agency for Research on Cancer changes reverses its position on DEHPs Carcinogenic effects.

    • Endocrine disruption theory in regards to DEHP disproved.

Health concerns2
Health Concerns

  • Research with laboratory rats suggests sexual developmental issues by reducing fetal testosterone levels

  • Testosterone levels were reduced to female levels

  • How does this relate to Humans? Or does it?

Health concerns3
Health Concerns

  • Tests were performed on Monkeys who are primates like humans

  • DEHP & DINP were both used and yielded no noticeable biological or physical responses to treatment

  • Species specificity?

Health concerns4
Health Concerns

  • Should this give manufacturers of Phthalates a clear conscience? Not Necessarily

  • Researchers in Puerto Rico claim that premature breast development of young girls, thelarche, may be the result of Phthalate exposure

  • 8 out of every 1000 girls suffer from this condition

Other health concerns aside from medical
Other Health Concerns Aside From Medical

  • Plasticizers and Infants:

    • Toys and Teethers

  • Plasticizers in Food:

    • Packaging Film

Industry science response
Industry/Science Response

  • In response to concerns about the safety of plasticizers, industry and science worked together to study the effects and disseminate information.

    • Toy manufacturers voluntarily replaced phthalates and, in some cases, PVC.

    • European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) forms EMSG, ECPI.

    • ECPI conducts joint research with Chemical Manufacturer’s Association (CMA) in the U.S.

    • The EPA, the Vinyl Institute and NIH provide information to consumers about their rights and the safety of phthalate-containing products.

Government decisions
Government Decisions

  • Europe

    • Several European nations banned the use of phthalates in toys.

    • International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies DEHP as carcinogenic, then reverses their decision in February of 2000.

    • As late as April of this year, the European Parliament calls for the use of substitution products. Seek to eliminate environmental effects of phthalates.

Government decisions1
Government Decisions

  • United States

    • The EPA regulates the amount of DEHP and DINP in the environment. They are listed as toxic chemicals subject to reporting requirements under the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA).

    • The FDA has issued no warnings on phthalate plasticizers, and does not consider them to be carcinogenic. No action has been taken by the US government in issues outside of the environmental aspect of phthalates. Any consumer product industry response has been voluntary.

Health or hype evaluating the positions of the major players
Health or Hype? Evaluating the Positions of the Major Players

  • Greenpeace

    • Have come out against the Vinyl industry in general, due to their belief in the toxicity of chlorine.

  • The Vinyl Institute

    • Seeks to disseminate information about the importance of vinyl products in our life and the evidence that they are not harmful to humans.

Alternatives to plasicizers
Alternatives to Plasicizers

  • Benzoates

  • Citrates

  • DINA

  • EPZ (Edible Plasticizer)

  • TXIB Plasticizer (hard oil)

  • 168 Plasticizer

  • DEHP is still used in medical devices although alternatives are being explored


  • Michael Fumento of the Hudson Institute: “If your child eats toys, phthalates are the least of your worries!”

  • Conflicting evidence about the effects of phthalates in humans and the environment.

  • Possible consequences for the food chain.

  • In the end, it is up to consumers to educate themselves and make informed decisions.




3.Abbott, Barbara D. (2000). “The Plasticizer Diethylhexyl Phthalate Induces

Malformations by Decreasing Fetal Testosterone Synthesis during Sexual

Differentiation in the Male Rat.” Toxicological Sciences 58, 339-349

Phthalate plasticizers

4.Ackley, David C. (2000). “Effects of Di-isononyl Phthalate, Di-2-ethylhexyl

Phthalate, and Clofibrate in Cynomologus Monkeys.” Toxicological Sciences 56,


5.Carraher, Charles E. Polymer Chemistry: an Introduction 4th Ed. (1996) Marcel Dekker, Inc. NY, New York 424-426

6.Durodie, Bill “Poisonous Propaganda, Global Echoes of an Anti-Vinyl Agenda.” Competitive Enterprise Institute, July 2000


Phthalate plasticizers

8.Christensen, Jackie Hunt. Toxic Toy Story. Mothering. Sept. 1998 p38 (1)9.O’Mara, Peggy. Winning the Fight Against PVC. Mothering. March 1999 p35 (1)10.Raloff, J. Girls May Face Risks from Phthalates. Science News. Sept 9, 2000 v158 ill p16511.Ullman’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Vol A20 pp439-451, VCH Publishers, Inc, 1992

Phthalate plasticizers

12.Woodyatt, K.G. Lambe, K.A. Myers, J.D. Tugwood and R.A. Roberts, “The Peroxisome Proliferator (PP) response element upstream of the human CoA oxidase gene is inactive among a sample human population: significance for species differences in response to PPs.” Carcinogenesis, vol.20 no.3 pp.369-371, 1999

Phthalate plasticizers

13.Zacharewski, T.R., M.D. Meek, J.H. Clemons, Z.F. Wu, M.R. Fielden and J.B. Matthews, “Examination of the in vitro and in vivo estrogenic activities of eight commercial phthalate esters.” Toxicological Sciences, Vol. 46, pp.282-293, 1998