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The use of phthalate plasticisers in some types of flexible PVC plastic

Phthalates are one of the types of plasticiser that can be used to make PVC plastic soft and flexible.  Without plasticisers, unique PVC products such as electrical cables, synthetic leather and many life-saving medical devices would not exist today.

Although phthalates are commonly referred to as if they were a single substance, this is misleading because there are a number of different types of phthalate, each with very different characteristics.  It has been misreported that phthalates are carcinogens. In fact no phthalates are classified as carcinogens.

It is wrong to classify phthalates generally as endocrine disruptors.  The most widely used phthalates, DINP and DIDP, are not endocrine disruptors and even in the case of the phthalate DEHP, endocrine disrupting effects have only been seen in rodent studies at many times the level of exposure that would normally be experienced by humans.

The fact is that in the 50 years during which phthalates have been used, there is no reliable evidence that they have caused any health problems when used as intended.
The presence of phthalates in products does not necessarily mean that they will enter the body at levels that might pose a risk.  Indeed, US government data has demonstrated that real life exposure is within safe limits.

Even when exposed to phthalates from different sources (what is sometimes referred to as the cocktail’ effect), the difference between the level of exposure in animal models that have shown additive effects at extremely high doses and the potential to exposure in humans is substantially broad enough to ensure that a sufficient margin of safety exists.

The main phthalates used in PVC plastic are recognised as having no adverse effects on the environment. They are not persistent or bio accumulative.

The plastics industry is very conscious of public concern and if there was evidence that any single product presented a serious health risk the industry would have no hesitation in withdrawing it.


To find out more about:

  • Phthalates and why are they used in PVC plastic
  • The different types of phthalate plasticisers
  • Why phthalates used in soft PVC products won’t cause cancer
  • The facts about phthalates, fertility and their impact on human reproduction
  • Whether the amount of phthalates found in some soft PVC products should be a cause for concern
  • If the use of phthalates in so many everyday products means that we should be concerned about total exposure to these plasticisers rather than to each individual substance
  • Why phthalates used in PVC are not dangerous to the environment

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