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Panel: Eileen Conneely
Media: Sarah Scruggs

Phthalates are a family of chemical compounds primarily used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or vinyl, flexible and pliant. Phthalates are used in hundreds of products in our homes, hospitals, cars and businesses. The phthalates widely selected to soften plastics are used because of their strong performance, durability and stability. Because these phthalates plasticizers are bound into the material in which they are added, they do not easily migrate out of the product or evaporate.

Phthalates are the most commonly used plasticizers in the world and are categorized as high and low, depending on their molecular weight.

What Are High Phthalates?

What Are High Phthalates?
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  • High phthalates include those with 9-13 carbon atoms in their chemical backbone, which gives them increased permanency and durability. The most common types of high phthalates include diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) and dipropylheptyl phthalate (DPHP). High phthalates are commonly used in PVC products such as wire and cable, flooring, wall covering, self-adhesive films, synthetic leather, coated fabrics and roofing and automobile applications.

  • Low phthalates include those with 3-8 carbon atoms in their chemical backbone. The most common types of low phthalates include di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Low phthalates are commonly used in medical devices, general purpose PVC, adhesives, inks and cosmetics.

Phthalates Information Sheet

Phthalates are a family of compounds some of which primarily are used to soften or “plasticize” polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or vinyl.

Car Interior

The High Phthalates Panel (HPP) of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) was formed in 2011 with a mission dedicated to promoting the benefits of esters of phthalic anhydride based on C9 and higher alcohols (C9+ phthalates), including the most common high phthalates (DINP, DIDP and DPHP).

Safety Information

High molecular weight phthalates have been thoroughly studied and reviewed by a number of government scientific agencies and regulatory bodies worldwide. These agencies concluded that high molecular weight phthalates used in commercial products do not pose a risk to human health at typical exposure levels. Information collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the last 10 years indicates that, despite the fact that high molecular weight phthalates are used in many products, exposure is extremely low – significantly lower than any levels of concern set by regulatory agencies.  

Did You Know

The brief articles in this section are designed to provide perspective on some of the important words and phrases that are used in everyday discussions about human health and well-being.

Measuring a Part Per Million
Understand Risk & Hazard
The Precautionary Principle
New Car Smell


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