Phthalates, materials that it is difficult to pronounce and even to tolerate, because they are considered harmful for people and also for animals. They have some chemical characteristics that make them such and are closer to us than one might think. Let's see how limit their presence as much as possible in our life.
Phthalates: what they are
By definition they are esters of phthalic acid, in a more understandable way we can define them substances generally not very soluble in water, very soluble in oils and not very volatile which occur as colorless liquids. They may therefore seem completely harmless, let's not be fooled by this appearance "insignificant" and innocent.
Among the phthalates we also find dioctyl phthalate, DEHP, main plasticizer of PVC due to its low cost, diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), diisononyl phthalate (DINP) and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBzP). The latter is also used in PVC, in the expanded one.
Phthalate: potassium acid
Among the phthalates we also find the potassium diphtalate (or potassium hydrogen phthalate) which is linked to potassium acid and can also be found indicated with the abbreviation KHP. It is a a potassium salt of phthalic acid which at room temperature looks like a white and odorless solid and which, in aqueous solution, is colorless.
Going to better analyze the characteristics of this substance we note that it is not hygroscopic, in the air it is stable and is therefore easy to weigh, which is why it was adopted as the primary titration standard for the standardization of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and also for pH meter calibration.
Phthalates: where they are found
Closely known one of the best known and most common, let's see more generally where we can meet phthalates, just to try not to get in touch with you as much as possible. These chemicals are still used frequently in the plastics industry as plasticizing agents. Their role is those of improve the flexibility and moldability of polymers to which they are added.
Today the commitment is to decrease their use but back in 2004 world production of phthalates had been estimated at 400,000 tons, in the twenties they started to be known and used and the boom was in the fifties, coincidentally in correspondence with the debut on the PVC market.
As early as 2003, studies had been conducted with the suspicion that phthalates produced bad effects on people's health, similar to those of estrogen hormones, therefore feminization of male babies and disturbances in the development of the genitals and in the maturation of the testicles. At the same time it has been proven that they create damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and development of testes in rodents who remain exposed to these substances for a long time.
There is also a recent American study that would lead us to to suspect that there is a link between the constant presence of phthalates and spontaneous abortions in women undergoing assisted fertilization. Research is continuing but it is better to stay as far away from phthalates as possible.
In cosmetics as well in perfumes and insecticides we often find phthalates, in particular those of light alcohols such as dimethyl phthalate and diethyl phthalate. Staying in the cosmetics and body care sector, these compounds are also often present in the process of preparing nail polishes, such as adhesives and varnishes.
Phthalates: film for food
Being used to produce PVC, we can also find phthalates in contact with food. This plastic material is in fact still often used for food packaging as in all other areas, it remains appreciated because it is a soft and moldable material even at low temperatures and if it is, it owes it to the presence of a phthalate in it.
Phthalates: medical devices
The phthalate that we can find in the medical field is the DEHP which is considered by the European Union to be a toxic chemical for reproduction. It is always included in those phthalates used in the production of PVC and what is feared is that continuous exposure to this DEHP could cause reduced fertility or harm fetuses. That is why we have been trying lately to limit the presence of DEHP and other phthalates in medical devices, especially if pediatric or in direct contact with the user.
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