With a wide range of physical and chemical properties, phthalates are used in a multitude of consumer and industrial products that demand high performance, long-lasting wear and durability. They can be found in a range of everyday items consumers depend on to function properly, including: electrical cables, automobile interiors, flexible hoses, flooring, wall coverings, coated textiles, luggage, sports equipment, roofing membranes, pool liners and footwear.

While they can be employed in a variety of applications, phthalates are not necessarily interchangeable. The characteristics of an individual phthalate often make it well suited to a particular product, allowing manufacturers to meet unique requirements for its use (function and safety specifications), appearance (texture, color, size and shape), and durability and wear.

Phthalates Brochure: Customer Satisfaction and Product Performance

From energy-efficient roofing, to flexible adhesives and sealants, to durable interior finishes, phthalates are used in building and construction products to make materials and surfaces last longer and to make them easier to maintain.

Car Interior

Flexible PVC

Because phthalates help make PVC resistant to changing weather conditions – maintaining flexibility in cold conditions and resisting degradation in high temperatures – they are used in many outdoor products, including: swimming pool liners and waterproofing for roofs and footwear, like rain boots.

Building and Construction

Phthalates commonly are used in vinyl building materials like flooring and wall coverings to make them flexible, safe and durable. From energy-efficient roofing, to flexible adhesives and sealants, to durable interior finishes, phthalates are used in building and construction products to make materials and surfaces last longer and to make them easier to maintain.

Flexible vinyl products made with phthalates can reduce the environmental footprint of a building. Because flexible vinyl made with phthalates lasts longer than vinyl alternatives, less energy and fewer other resources are needed to manufacture and install it. In fact, according to industry sources, flexible vinyl takes less energy to produce than many competing products. Flexible vinyl also has unique anti-microbial properties that are critical to fighting germs in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Phthalates used to make vinyl flexible and durable are tightly bound in the structure of the material. This fact, together with the lower vapor pressure of the phthalates typically used in building applications, contributes to the long service life of flexible vinyl materials. Phthalates are specifically chosen as plasticizers because they resist extraction, evaporation and migration.

Phthalate safety has been studied for several decades, and biomonitoring data – conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – exist for the last decade. Phthalates are widely used and, as expected, metabolites of several of the most common phthalates are found in most of the people measured; however, the detected levels are well below those deemed to be safe by regulatory authorities in the U.S. and Europe. These safe levels are based on the results of many years of laboratory testing. Even when scientists hypothesize extreme exposures from phthalates in building products, the predicted exposure levels are hundreds or thousands of times below the safe level established by regulatory authorities.

The U.S. Green Business Council (USGBC) has spent years studying the environmental impacts of vinyl building products. Their findings, released in February 2007, concluded that vinyl generally has no greater environmental impact than other building products – and in some cases has less impact. Despite this past conclusion, USGBC recently added a pilot credit to the library for its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program that would encourage building designers to avoid the use of products containing phthalates. The pilot credit represents a significant departure from USGBC’s historic focus on improving performance through a building’s entire life cycle. USGBC has not determined that exposure to extremely low levels of phthalates from their use in building products presents a health concern, however, nor has it evaluated the safety and performance of building products that don’t contain phthalates.

Wire and Cable

Durability, low volatility, heat resistance and electrical resistivity make phthalates a material of choice for protecting wires that run through homes and offices to charge our computers, appliances and a variety of other machines used in our daily lives. Wires and cables sheathed with PVC help prevent potentially dangerous electrical accidents.


Interiors, vinyl seat covers and interior trim in automobiles use phthalates because of their ability to withstand high temperatures and their effectiveness in making these products more resistant to degradation. PVC coatings and components in cars help prevent corrosion from water and weather elements. Flexible vinyl is also used in cars and trucks to make them lighter and more fuel efficient.  

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