Phthalates - harmful caustic smell from toys
Production of plastics and most types of rubber is absolutely unthinkable without the use of special additives - plasticizers. They make the material more durable and durable, thanks to them acquired properties such as transparency and flexibility.
Phthalates are among the first plasticizers. But these chemicals are used not only in industry. In the modern world one can hardly meet a person who is not exposed to their influence. Consider what phthalates are, what harm they cause to health and how to avoid their negative impact.
Phthalates and their species
Phthalates - what is it? This is a group of substances that is phthalic acid esters by chemical structure (dialkyl or alkylaryl esters of 1,2-benzenedicarboxylic acid).
Due to their properties, they are inexpensive plasticizers, which are added to PVC (about 90% of products), rubber, paints. Phthalates have found their use in other areas, mainly in the cosmetic and perfume industry. In decorative cosmetics they are added to give softness, create an oil film, as a solvent and a binding component.
Two groups of phthalates are distinguished: with low (3–6 carbon atoms in the molecule) and high (more than 6) molecular weight. It is believed that the more toxic phthalates belong to the first group.
Phthalate-producing plants pollute the environment severely and damage the environment. About 1 million tons of these chemicals are produced annually. The most common are the following types of plasticizers.
- Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is one of the most popular monoethyl phthalates. In cosmetic production, it is used as a solvent and odor fixer, as well as an alcohol substitute.
- Di (n-butyl) phthalate (DBP) is also widely used in cosmetics. It is a common component of nail polish.
- Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). The dominant plasticizer, whose low cost and excellent technological qualities determine its widespread use as an additive in polyvinyl chloride, including PVC foam, other construction and finishing materials. Also used in perfumery.
Most often in the list of ingredients on the label phthalates are hidden behind the designation “flavoring” (“perfume”).
- Dimethyl phthalate - what is it? It is used as a plasticizer for cellulose ethers, vinyl polymers, and rubbers. It is also known as a substance that is part of drugs that repel blood-sucking insects.
- Dibutyl phthalate is used as a component of plastics based on polyvinyl chloride, rubbers, epoxy resins, some cellulose ethers and as a high-boiling solvent. It is part of the adhesive BF-6. Dibutyl phthalate is also used as an insect repellent.
Currently, due to the negative effect of this group of substances on health, there is a general tendency to replace low molecular weight (DEHP) with high (DINP and DIDP) phthalates as the preferred plasticizer.
Abbreviation of phthalate compounds:
- BBP - butylphenyl phthalate;
- DNOP - dioctyl phthalate;
- DHP - di-n-hexyl-phthalate;
- DIDP - di-zdodecyl-phthalate;
- DBP - di (n-butyl) phthalate;
- DEHP - di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate;
- DEP is diethyl phthalate.
These data will help to navigate when reading information about the product.
Where are phthalates
Plasticizers are found everywhere, as part of the plastic and rubber, cosmetics and medical products. The most common products that contain phthalates are the following positions.
- Children's toys made of PVC and rubber - balls, dolls, nipples, teethers for teeth, in elastic bands for weaving. Children use them for creativity, creating various crafts: bracelets, charms, figurines.
- Cosmetics - nail polishes and hair shampoos, sunscreens.
- Perfumes - deodorants.
- Stretch ceiling. Low-quality PVC film will emit high doses of harmful substances into the room air.
- PVC window frames.
- Hoses, pipes.
- Finishing materials in the car.
- Medical products - catheters, tubes, systems for blood transfusion, shell of some tablets.
- Packaging materials.
- Carpet and wall coverings.
As you can see, if you enjoy the benefits of civilization, contact with phthalates cannot be avoided.
What harm phthalates
What are dangerous phthalates for human health? Most of these substances belong to the group of slightly toxic drugs. This means that in those concentrations in which it is provided for in regulatory acts (a tenth of a percent) they do not cause a negative impact.
The greatest practical importance is the problem of the accumulation of phthalates in the body and chronic poisoning. The trouble is that these compounds are able to accumulate in the body, and the effect of different types of them is summarized. The situation is aggravated by the fact that some manufacturers do not comply with the norms.
The question of the dangers of phthalates was initially raised in the United States in 2003 following a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It was found that these substances are easily released from plastic products - because they are not chemically related to PVC, and accumulate in the air. They enter the body with food, drinking water, through the lungs and skin. In the body, they are transformed into metabolites (mainly monoethyl phthalates), are spread throughout all organs and tissues, affect the liver, kidneys, respiratory organs and affect hormonal levels. Phthalates are classified as antiandrogens - substances that inhibit the production of male sex hormones.
According to research data of scientists from different countries, they provoke the development of the following diseases.
- Disruption of the sexual glands (DEHP).
- Breast cancer - DEHP, diethyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate, the effect on humans was found in studies of women at risk.
- Elevated levels of phthalates in the air (DEHP and BBZP) cause asthma in children.
- Female and male infertility.
- Decreased testosterone production.
- In men, they contribute to abdominal obesity (accumulation of fat in the abdomen), insulin resistance (a precursor of type 2 diabetes), and increase the risk of developing testicular cancer.
- In children, they cause a violation of puberty (accelerated in girls, slowed down in boys, they become feminine), general development and behavior. South Korean experts have found a link between high levels of phthalates in the urine and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It has been found that children under the age of three are more vulnerable to the effects of phthalates. These hazardous substances can be found in shampoos, powders, creams and lotions, toys and PVC dishes.
- In pregnant women, they can cause malformations of the reproductive organs of the fetus (in boys, underdevelopment of the penis, failure of the testicles to enter the scrotum). Phthalates from a biochemical point of view, replace estrogen, which negatively affects the course of pregnancy.
How to protect yourself from phthalates
Unfortunately, there is no way how to determine phthalates at home.
- Advice to avoid PVC products is not always done.
- The smell of phthalate, released in high concentrations, is quite sharp, so you need to get rid of such products.
- Buy products from proven manufacturers.
- During pregnancy, reduce the use of cosmetics and perfumes to a minimum. In Sweden, studies have been conducted that showed that 80% of cosmetics on the market contain phthalates, and they are not indicated on the labels. Currently, there are manufacturers who produce cosmetics without phthalates.
- Be wary of waterproof cosmetics.
- Responsibly approach the choice of toys for children. It is recommended to buy toys with a CE mark on the package.
It is possible to read information on labels, but not always manufacturers correctly indicate the composition of products. Orientation will help the following data.
- In Europe, DEHP, BBP and DBP are limited to all toys; DINP, DIDP and DNOP are limited in toys that can be taken by mouth (content less than 0.1%).
- In the USA, DEHP, DBP, or BBP are restricted; DIDP, DNOP and DINP in products for children under three years old.
The presence of commodity producers who voluntarily refuse DEHP and DINP in nipples, phthalates in elastic bands, teethers, etc., helps the cause.
Summing up, we note that the problem of phthalates exists and requires an immediate solution. To minimize the harmful effects of these toxic substances will help the correct choice of the manufacturer, the rejection of products from cheap plastic and interest in the use of environmentally friendly products, whether cosmetics or finishing materials.