Phthalates and substitutes

Phthalate diesters

General-purpose plasticizers for PVC and other polymers

Phthalates are esters of phthalic acid (1,2-benzenedicarboxylic acid) with different alcohols. They are mainly used in the production of polyvinyl chloride to soften the PVC. Plasticized PVC is used in numerous applications such as wire insulations, floor tiles and carpets, wall papers, foils, synthetic leather, packaging, medical products (e.g. blood bags and flexible tubes), toys, childcare articles and sporting goods. The mean phthalate content of plasticized PVC is 30–35%. Phthalates are not chemically bound to PVC and may therefore outgas or be released upon contact with fluids and fat. Due to their wide use, phthalates are ubiquitous in the environment.
Released phthalates strongly adsorb to particles and may be subject to long-range transport in the atmosphere.
In soils and sediments phthalates are persistent. They have a high potential for bioaccumulation. Some phthalates are endocrine disruptors and are suspected to be toxic for reproduction and development.

Some phthalates have been forbidden in childcare articles and toys in the European Union (EU) since 2005. Since 2015, use of the phthalates DEHP (bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate), DBP (dibutyl phthalate), BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate), DINP (di-isononyl phthalate), DIDP (di-isodecyl phthalate) and DNOP (di-n-octyl phthalate) is prohibited without a specific authorisation.

Due to the strong regulation, the alternative use of long chained phthalates and different substance classes is on the rise. Hexamoll® DINCH® (Diisononyl cyclohexane-1,2-dicarboxylate) is an example of these substitute plasticizers.

The above mentioned substances are degraded when entering the body. Therefore only their degradation products (metabolites) can be analysed. The first metabolites are monoesters which are further degraded to other metabolites.

Recommended analysis examples



  • Student groups with an even number of female and male students at the age of 20 to 29.

Sampling area

Sampling period

1988 - 2017

Extended information

Links to external information and legislation