“Phthalates: A Scientific Chirography”

“Phthalates: A Scientific Chirography”

Shivender Singh Saini DSC01593-001

“Snobbish milieu regulations may have improved the quality of outdoor ambiance to some extent, but indoor ambiance has received too diminutive heed.”


Researcher (Ph.D. Chemistry Last Semester)
Institute: Department of Chemistry, Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab, India


We are living in a pernicious milieu. However meticulous you are about your salubrity, your protoplasm is almost certainly accessible to torment chemicals called phthalates. Outdoor ambience exposure is typically evaluated by exposure models. But anticipating full scale exposures desires unified recognition of multiple exposure sources and the likeliness of acquaintance with these sources. The outdoor ambience risk assessments may have been informed by large biomonitoring  programs  but  indoor ambience has received too diminutive heed.  I opted to essay and pen an article on Phthalates to discourse  the  corporal  caitiff,  entangled  in the celluloid of Phthalates, the  mise  en scene  of its realistic acquaintance with people.

Keywords: Phthalates, Hormones,  Endocrine –disruptors, Plastic,  Ambience.

 Thinking outside the box

Pronto envisage that an individual has an esophagus infection and thereupon a  high pyrexia. Now, a medical investigator would undoubtedly  respond  by  meticulously diagnosing the esophagus infection and consequently pyrexia would be recovered involuntary. But suppose the medical investigator took the other approach. What if he decided to start examining the pyrexia as a cardinal problem ?. Surely medicines prescribed by the medical investigator would be correct for pyrexia, and he might succeed in improving the medical condition of the individual for a while, but after some time the medical condition would deteriorate, because in second approach he did not recognize the essence malady. Markedly, masses, and executives debited with shielding the universal community from hazardous chemicals, phthalates rely on the second strategy. Globally, all the environmental laws and regulations seek to control the release of phthalates in the environment i.e. air, water and soil rather than actual direct exposure to the people.  Substantially,  they  oversight  the entity, that phthalates produce health dilemma only if they reach the body. To some extent, this delinquency is understandable, officials seldom knew with any certitude, the number of people affected by a given phthalate, the austerity of exposure of the troublesome chemical.  Fortunately, the science of appraising people’s exposure to hazardous chemicals has matured. In particular, scientists have started thinking in that view, and  that  is  Alpha.

Outdoor ambience exposure is typically evaluated by exposure models. But anticipating full scale exposures desires unified recognition of multiple exposure sources and the likeliness of acquaintance with these sources. The outdoor ambience risk assessments may have been informed by large biomonitoring  programs  but  indoor ambience has received too diminutive heed.  I opted to essay and pen an article on Phthalates to discourse  the  corporal  caitiff,  entangled  in the celluloid of Phthalates, the  mise  en scene  of its realistic acquaintance with people. Promptly multifold queries bang in  peruser’s  mind.  What are phthalates? Why hoi polloi should be concerned about phthalates? Are they toxic, if yes, what are their ill effects on humans ?  what are the materials containing Phthalates ? Can they be avoided at hoi polloi level, if so, how ? These are the queries that are of concern to us all. But now-days the modern science has become so technical that only a small number of people (specialists) are able to understand the scientific terminology used to describe them. Yet the basic ideas about the phthalates can be stated without much scientific terminology in a form that people with a little scientific education can understand. That is what I have endeavoured to do in this article. In this article, I strived to fabricate the prevailing apprehension of the TOX-IN, Phthalate, and this approach presented here could inherently be used to impart sapience into learning the indoor exposure circuit and imperative prudences. The  peruser  must verdict whether I owe the endeavor.


Why getting personal with Phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates)?

In last week of February, 2014  when  I speculated , to work on the analysis of  phthalates as a part of my Ph.D. research work in the department of chemistry , Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab, India, I started literature survey  and  found a piles of research articles on Phthalates and  came to know about the various analytical methods available ( HPLC-UV,  GC-MS, LC-MS etc.), of my concern, and what I conclude acutely  that phthalates are the chemicals to which every ordinary human came into contact with, everyday instinctively and unwittingly  and does not comprehend its heinous effects. So, what is the use of my piece of research work to those people who are not primarily scientists, to the extent that they have technical backgrounds, they can read my article for information about Phthalates, a chemical, of area outside their expertise, but very much inside their daily routine and then I intented to write aforementioned  article  for the asset of the society.

A Quintessence Prologue of Endocrine disruptors and Phthalates

For a moment just Speculate that, I say ‘hi’. You say ‘hello’ back. We have used words to communicate. In this plain paragon, a sender (I) sends a verbal signal/message (hi) that conveys information to a receiver (you), who responds back to the signal/message with another signal/message (hello). But a raucous clamor or being miles afar can impede the signal and probably disrupt the communication. If it happens, the received message could be normal, garbled, or not received at all, leading to either no reply or an altered response, such as “What ?” Signaling between and within morphons is a universal phenomena. Morphons signal to each other with sounds, vision, and aroma as well as words, colors, body posture, and pheromones. These types of signals generally convey messages externally, among creatures.
Within an morphon, chemical and electrical signals prevail. The pulses and molecules facilitate communication inside a cell, between cells, and among organs and body systems. In people and vertebrate animals, the endocrine, nervous, and immune systems use chemical messengers such as hormones and enzymes, to regulate body function, control behavior, and integrate hormone, brain, immune, and other body systems. A bevy of synthetic chemicals and natural plant compounds, as well as some physical factors, such as light and low oxygen, can also interact with these natural chemical-signaling systems. The endocrine system, with its complex network of glands, hormones, and cell receptors, is especially prone to their influences.

Endocrine-disruptors are compounds that temper inaptly the endocrine system and consequently incite inimical health effects in exposed individuals and populations. They have been defined by the European Commission as ‘exogenous substances or mixtures, that  alter  function(s)  of  the  endocrine  system and consequently cause adverse health effects in an intact organism, its progeny or sub-population.1 These xenobiotics  impede with the production, release, transport, metabolism, binding, action or elimination of natural hormones incumbent for homeostasis and imperative for regular growth and development.2, 3  Some endocrine-disruptors are naturally occurring, for instance the flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables, phytochemicals, reside in fungus and plants, including mold, soyabeans, clover, whole grains and other legumes.  A host of human activities, release other naturally occurring endocrine-disruptors: the heavy metals cadmium, lead and mercury and others are synthetic chemicals: end products or by-products from medicinal or industrial chemistry. The notion of endocrine disruption emanates over more than a decennium ago with the cognition that numerous natural and industrial compounds can tamper with estrogen and androgen signaling and by that, perturb both male and female reproductive activity. Since then, many endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) including Phthalates have been identified. The reckoning of vulnerability to one of the most frequently utilized family of chemicals in the world- Phthalates, is not presently fixed completely, as a risk assessment approach especially in India and presents unique threats.

A Miniature Chemistry of Phthalates

We are living in a pernicious milieu. However meticulous you are about your health, your body is almost certainly accessible to torment chemicals called phthalates. These are ubiquitous in modern life. Phthalates are alkyl/aryl or dialkyl esters of phthalic acid (Fig.1), a class of industrial chemicals extensively used since the early 20th century to increase the flexibility  of  plastics in a wide array of consumer products. More than 470 million pounds of phthalates  are  produced or imported only in the United states each year,4 and celluloid of import/export in India, peruser can visit : http://dgsafeguards.gov.in/newversion/final-%20dop-Revised.pdf and what about the rest of the world???

There  are  about  25  different  synthetic  chemicals  that make up the chemical class of phthalates (Table 1).  Phthalates are used in a wide variety of cosmetics, consumer products including personal-care products, nail polish, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, softeners of plastics, children’s toys, food packaging, detergents and surfactants, modeling clay, waxes, paints, additives to hairsprays ,  printing inks and coatings, lubricants and as insect repellents, textiles, cleaning  and building materials.2,3  Because of their chemical and physical properties, the end-use stencils for various phthalates can be quite divergent.


Figure 1.   R, R’ groups can be linear, branched, or linear/branched  or cyclic ring.

Phthalates  are categorized as low and high phthalates, depending on their molecular weight.

€  Low phthalates are those with 3-6 carbon atoms in their chemical backbone. The most common examples include DBP (dibutyl phthalate) and DEHP ( di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) and are commonly used in medical devices, general purpose PVC (Poly vinyl chloride), inks and  adhesives.

  €  High phthalates are those with 7-13 Carbon atoms in their chemical backbone, and thus more durable and permanence. The most common examples include DINP (diisononyl phthalate), DIDP (diisodecyl phthalate) and DPHP (dipropylheptyl phthalate). They are commonly used in PVC (Poly vinyl chloride) products such as cable and wire, flooring, self-adhesive films, wall covering, roofing synthetic leather, coated fabrics and automobile applications.

Common Name Acronym                        Structural formula Molecular weight (g/mol)  
Dimethyl phthalate DMP C6H4(COOCH3)2 194.18  
Diethyl phthalate DEP C6H4(COOC2H5)2 222.24  
Diallyl phthalate DAP C6H4(COOCH2CH=CH2)2 246.26  
Di-n-propyl phthalate DPP C6H4[COO(CH2)2CH3]2 250.29  
Di-n-butyl phthalate DBP C6H4[COO(CH2)3CH3]2 278.34  
Diisobutyl phthalate DIBP C6H4[COOCH2CH(CH3)2]2 278.34  
Butyl cyclohexyl phthalate BCP CH3(CH2)3OOCC6H4COOC6H11 304.38  
Di-n-pentyl phthalate DnPP C6H4[COO(CH2)4CH3]2 306.40  
Dicyclohexyl phthalate DCP C6H4[COOC6H11]2 330.42  
Butyl benzyl BBP CH3(CH2)3OOCC6H4COOCH2C6H5 312.36  
Di-n-hexyl phthalate DNHP C6H4[COO(CH2)5CH3]2 334.45  
Diisohexyl phthalate DIHxP C6H4[COO(CH2)3CH(CH3)2]2 334.45  



DIHpP C6H4[COO(CH2)4CH(CH3)2]2 362.50  
Butyl decyl phthalate BDP CH3(CH2)3OOCC6H4COO(CH2)9CH3 362.50  
Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate DEHP, DOP C6H4[COOCH2CH(C2H5)(CH2)3CH3]2 390.56  
Di(n-octyl) phthalate DNOP C6H4[COO(CH2)7CH3]2 390.56  
Diisooctyl phthalate DIOP C6H4[COO(CH2)5CH(CH3)2]2 390.56  
n-Octyl n-decyl phthalate ODP CH3(CH2)7OOCC6H4COO(CH2)9CH3 418.61  
Diisononyl phthalate DINP C6H4[COO(CH2)6CH(CH3)2]2 418.61  
Di(2-propylheptyl) phthalate DPHP C6H4[COOCH2CH(CH2CH2CH3)(CH2)4CH3]2 446.66  
Diisodecyl phthalate DIDP C6H4[COO(CH2)7CH(CH3)2]2 446.66  
Diundecyl phthalate DUP C6H4[COO(CH2)10CH3]2 474.72  
Diisoundecyl phthalate DIUP C6H4[COO(CH2)8CH(CH3)2]2 474.72  
Ditridecyl phthalate DTDP C6H4[COO(CH2)12CH3]2 530.82  
Diisotridecyl phthalate DIUP C6H4[COO(CH2)10CH(CH3)2]2 530.82  

                                        Table 1. Most common phthalates

Persuaded Greener aspect

I read some articles, which concluded the elusive worth of phthalates and controvert the antagonistic profile of Phthalates,5 such as there is no rigorous research proof for their hostile nature, they are cost effective, flexibile, durable, ability to withstand high temperatures, weather resistance, long lasting wear. Phthalates are primarily used to make vinyl flexible and are used in hundreds of products in our homes, hospitals, cars and businesses wear, are not necessarily interchangeable. Colorless, odorless phthalates are cost effective and also highly suitable for many flexible vinyl products. Some of their key characteristics include: durability, flexibility, weather resistance and ability to withstand high temperatures. The characteristics of an individual phthalate often make it well suited to a particular product, allowing manufacturers to meet unique requirements for its use, appearance and durability and wear. For this reason, substitutions could sacrifice the functionality, quality, longevity, cost or performance of a product.

All these business persuasions cannot veil the murky facet of Phthalates, and as a researcher, I think human vigor is much expensive than anything in the world.

Quotidian  exposure of  everyman to the potentially harmful chemicals, phthalates may be from multiple sources water, food, air, soil, biota and sediments and in multiple environments  such as  work place, home, and sustaining medical procedures.6,7 The multifarious examined  course of exposure for this class of chemicals has been explicit exposure via ingestion by toddlers and small children from the mouthing of toys, teethers  and other bairn’s products made of  Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC).6 Fetal exposures have also been shown to be the recalcitrant villain.Phthalates leach from plastic and other products containing phthalates, into lower pH products such as soda and vinegar more readily than into bottled water. Temperature also appears to influence the leaching both of phthalates and of antimony from PET, with greater leaching at higher temperatures. Lower-pH condiments such as table vinegar and salad dressing may warrant particular attention.9  The findings suggest that ingesting several servings of salad dressing that had been stored in a warm warehouse for a month might result in a dose of di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) on the order of several hundred micrograms, possibly reaching the reference dose limit of 20 μg/kg/day. 10,11



  1. Waring R.H., Harris R.M., Endocrine disrupters: a human risk? Mol Cell Endocrinol (2005)         244: 2- 9.

2.Markey C.M., Rubin B.S., Soto A.M., Sonnenschein, C., Endocrine disruptors: from Wingspread      to  environmental developmental biology. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol  (2002) 83: 235–244.

  1. Tabb M.M., Blumberg B., New modes of action for endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Mol       Endocrinol (2006)20: 475–482.
  2.   U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2009. Phthalates Action Plan. Washington,DC:         U.S.  EPA.
  3. Jocelyn Kaiser 2005. Panel Finds No Proof That Phthalates Harm Infant       Reproductive       Systems Science (2005) 422.
  4. Babich, M.; Chen, S.; Greene, M.; Kiss, C.; et al. 2004. Risk Assessment of Oral      Exposure to Diisononyl Phthalate from Children’s Products. Regul. Toxicol.      Pharmacol. 2004, 40 (2), 151–167.
  5. Clausen, P. A.; Hansen, V.; Gunnarsen, L.; Afshari, A. 2004. Emission of Di-2-      ethylhexyl        Phthalate from PVC Flooring into Air and Uptake in Dust: Emission       and Sorption       Experiments in FLEC and CLIMPQA. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2004,      38, 2531–2537.
  6. Adibi, J.; Perera, F.; Jedrychowski, W.; Camann, D.; Jacek, R.; Whyatt, R. 2003.     Prenatal        Exposures to Phthalates among Women in New York City and Krakow,      Poland. Environ.       Health Perspect. 2003, 111 (14), 1719–1722.
9. Sax L. Polyethylene terephthalate may yield endocrine disruptors. Environ Health Perspect 2010; 118: 445-8.
10. Farhoodi M, Emam-Djomeh Z, Ehsani MR, Oromiehie A. Effect of environmental conditions on the migration of di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate from PET bottles into yogurt drinks: influence of time, temperature, and food stimulant. Arabian J Sci Eng 2008;33:279-87.