Phthalates are high production volume chemicals used primarily as plasticizers in synthetic polymers such as polyvinylchloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU). Although there are various types of phthalates, they are all used to make hard plastics more soft and flexible.
A number of phthalates are known or suspected endocrine disruptors and as a result of this, phthalates are heavily regulated globally.
Endocrine disruptors are toxins that hinder the normal activities of the endocrine system, which regulates hormone levels in the body. Furthermore, phthalates have been the cause of numerous effects in laboratory animals, with particularly undesirable effects on the development of the reproductive systems in males with aquatic organisms being particularly susceptible.
The omnipresent nature of phthalates in modern society deems for strict regulations as they are found in many household products such as food packaging, coated leathers, vinyl flooring, adhesives and shampoo just to name a few.
Annex XVII REACH restricts the use of DEHP, DBP and BBP in concentrations exceeding that of 0.1% by weight of the plasticised material in toys and childcare articles. These restrictions also apply to DINP, DIDP and DNOP in concentrations greater than 0.1% by weight of the plasticised material in toys and childcare articles which can be placed in the mouth by children.
The use of phthalates is also prohibited under CPSIA and California Proposition 65 alongside other EU and international legislations.