June 3, 2013

For years now, phthalate-based plasticisers have hit the mainstream headlines for their reported side effects. The debate still rages on. Certain product lines have already been banned across Europe for use in specific applications.

To respond to consumer demand for ‘phthalate-free’ plasticisers, especially in applications aimed at children or food contact, many major chemical groups are introducing new product lines with more stringent criteria.

One such group is Eastman Chemical Company. EPPM caught up with Martin Stimpson, Global Market Development and Key Account Manager, Adhesives and Plasticisers Business Unit, to find out what needs to change, and why.

Phthalates have been used in in consumer products for the past 50 years and are primarily used to make vinyl plastics soft and flexible. They are said to improve the performance and durability of many consumer products and play an important role in medical devices.

In terms of Eastman’s plasticisers, they are found in flexible PVC applications and in adhesives and sealants. Flexible PVC, according to Stimpson, covers flooring and wall coverings, medical bags and tubing, garden hoses, food contact caps and wraps, children’s toys, flexible film, vinyl gloves and more.

It is two of the aforementioned applications – food contact and children’s toys – that have garnered the most criticism for their use of phthalate-based plasticisers. Of Eastman’s new phthalate-free plasticisers, Stimpson said: “Eastman is confident that Eastman DOP (DEHP) is safe for its intended use and is committed to the continued research and development of plasticisers as the industry and regulatory landscapes evolve.

Eastman conducts its own toxicology testing and reviews and is responsive to our customers’ desire to have alternatives for traditional phthalates.”

Regulations surrounding phthalates are changing, with products using phthalate-based plasticisers being phased out of production in North America and Europe. Consequently, companies are now adapting to this change in trend by using alternatives, which Stimpson discussed: “There are many alternatives to phthalates and each alternative has is pluses and minuses. In flexible PVC, the primary alternatives include DOTP, citrates including ATBC and others, and trimellitates such as TOTM and DINCH.

“Non-phthalate plasticisers generally command a slight premium compared to phthalate-based plasticisers but that is not always the case. Actual pricing is dependent upon many factors, therefore generalisations regarding market pricing are impossible.”

When asked if there are any potential disadvantages to not using phthalates, Stimpson argued otherwise: “On the contrary, there are many potential advantages to using non-phthalate plasticisers. As consumer preferences shift, many manufacturers are finding that switching to a non-phthalate plasticiser is easier than they thought.

“Once switched, they no longer have to worry about adapting to the changing regulatory environment related to phthalates. By making the switch now, manufacturers can be assured that any new restrictions on the use of phthalates will not negatively impact their business.”

Do you have an opinion on the use of phthalates in plasticisers? Do you feel the health risks concerned with phthalates are blown out of proportion? Leave a comment below…


June 3, 2013

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