In the age of the depleting ozone layer and the ubiquitous smog repeatedly exceeding acceptable norms, the environmental awareness in the society is constantly growing. Technical materials used nowadays include those that may have a negative impact on our health. These are the materials applied in daily use products containing phthalates. In this article I will try to answer why and how to avoid phthalates.

Phthalates in materials – why should they be avoided?

In the age of the depleting ozone layer and the ubiquitous smog repeatedly exceeding acceptable norms, the environmental awareness in the society is constantly growing. Technical materials used nowadays include those that may have a negative impact on our health. These are the materials applied in daily use products containing phthalates. In this article I will try to answer why and how to avoid phthalates.

plac zabawWhat are phthalates?

From the chemical point of view, phthalates are salts and esters of phthalic acid. In the material industry, they are mainly used in the production of certain laminates, but are also employed in the production of paints, varnishes and adhesives. The phthalate coating is characterised by high resistance to external factors such as humidity or air temperature as well as mechanical damage. Phthalates are used as softening agents to provide flexibility (the so-called phthalate plasticisers).

What impact do phthalates have on our health?

Probably some phthalates may increase the risk of developing asthma, which is especially dangerous for children and pregnant women. Some sources claim that these substances can interfere with the activity of certain hormones and damage the central nervous system in children. Studies on a group of seven-year-olds show that children more at materials whose mothers were exposed to breathing air heavily polluted with phthalates during pregnancy have lower IQ by an average of 7 points compared with peers in the control group.

Phthalates are easily eluted, which is particularly dangerous for small children that have the habit of inserting toys in their mouths. However, it is important to know that phthalates can enter the body also through the respiratory tract and the skin. In this case, even playing on a floor made of PVC materials with the addition of phthalates can be harmful for children.

Microscope slide in hand
Microscope slide in hand

Preventive measures

In the year 2005 the Directive 2005/84/EC of the European Parliament determined that phthalates may not be used for the production of toys and articles for children. Then, in 2013 the EN 71-3 standard was adopted for all sorts of coatings used on toys. Now, each toy that enters the European market should be examined in terms of content of paint, laminates, coatings, etc. that were used in its production. EN 71-3 is also used to prevent the existence of heavy metals in toys.

In 2012, phthalates have been added to the candidate list of SVHC (substances of very high concern). The main reason for the inclusion of phthalates on the list was their toxicity to reproductive organs (according to some studies phthalates may cause infertility in men). This list is one of the effects of the implementation of the EU REACH regulation in 2008 which aims to increase the protection of the environment and human health against threats posed by chemical substances. The presence of phthalates on the candidate list of SVHC may mean that using these materials in production will be prohibited or limited in the future. However, there is no precise information when such changes may occur.

What is more, phthalates are still used in the production of many other everyday use objects that are not intended for children, but with which children are inevitably in contact. These include PVC floor coverings, plastic food wraps, deodorants or perfumes. It seems, therefore, that the measures taken so far are not sufficient to ensure maximum safety for children.

How to protect yourself against phthalates?

When it comes to purchasing toys for children, the issue is simple. If a toy bears the “CE” stamp, it means that the product meets the requirements of the EU directives and its use does not endanger the child or the environment. The situation is slightly different if we are dealing with products that do not have specific requirements as to their content. Pay attention to the presence of phthalates when choosing:

  • carpets, especially linoleum
  • roller shutters
  • paints for indoor use
  • deodorants
  • garden furniture made of MESH

Phthalates are used in the construction industry and most often appear under the name „DEHP” (diethylhexyl terephthalate). Phthalates can also be present in food wraps, in which processed food is packaged and sold. In such cases, getting to know the actual content of such packaging can be very difficult or simply impossible, so it would be better to develop a habit of avoiding buying this kind of food.

Where to find phthalate free materials?

In our Sako Expo shop you will find a wide variety of phthalate free materials, mainly for use in sports. These materials can be safely used in the manufacture of sport mats and in coating other gymnastic equipment (e.g., vaulting horses, rehabilitation rollers, etc.). Below are examples of phthalate free materials available at our online shop:

  • Anti-slip cube texture material, available in two weights (G2700, G2759)
  • Material for the manufacture of “tatami” judo mats imitating reed texture (G7655)
  • Artificial leather material, flame retardant (G7650)
  • Material for the manufacture of wrestling mats, smooth (G7000)
  • Transparent foil FWP/05 BZ, frost proof

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