Growing concern over the health effects of phthalates has spurred a search for alternatives that can add flexibility to plastics without leaching out
Researchers at UC Santa Cruz have developed safer alternatives to the phthalate plasticizers used to enhance the suppleness, flexibility, and longevity of plastics.
The problem with phthalates is that they leach out of plastics into food, water, and the environment, and there is mounting evidence suggesting that phthalate exposure can lead to a variety of health problems.
Researchers led by Rebecca Braslau, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC Santa Cruz, addressed this problem by developing chemicals that are effective as plasticizers for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) but can’t leach out of PVC products because they are chemically bonded to the polymer chain. The team reported their findings in a paper published in theJournal of Polymer Science (online September 26 and in the November 1 print issue).
Phthalates are used in a wide variety of products, but their most widespread use is as plasticizers for PVC, one of the most common types of plastic. After polypropylene and polyethylene, PVC is the third most common plastic polymer and is used to make products such as building materials, furniture, clothing, garden hoses, food packaging, blood-storage containers, and medical devices.
Braslau’s team has been working to develop “nonmigratory” plasticizers that attach to the PVC polymer via a chemical bond and can’t leach out of the plastic. She explained that traditionally, phthalates are mixed with fine-ground PVC and “melted together” rather than being bonded.
“Unlike phthalates, our nonmigratory plasticizers physically can’t leach out,” Braslau said.
Her lab has produced several viable nonmigratory plasticizers, including two dubbed the “frog” and the “tadpole” because of their chemical structures. The “tadpole” is particularly promising, Braslau said, because it is much easier to produce than the “frog” and is the most effective of the plasticizing strategies examined.
“Fewer steps and fewer chemicals are involved in its synthesis. Importantly, it should be scalable for industrial use,” she said.
The research into phthalate alternatives was prompted by growing concerns about the potential health risks posed by phthalates. Certain phthalates are considered endocrine disruptors because they or their metabolites interfere with the body’s hormone system. Most of the studies showing harmful effects have been done in lab animals, but some human studies have also found associations between exposure to phthalates and adverse reproductive and developmental effects.
How phthalates affect human health and at what levels of exposure are still unresolved questions, but researchers are particularly concerned about potential effects on infants and children. Bans on the use of phthalates in children’s toys and childcare products have been imposed by both the European Union and the United States.
Nevertheless, the use of phthalates in other products remains widespread. They are found in vinyl siding and flooring, shower curtains, children’s rain gear, and even in personal care products such as shampoos and cosmetics. As a result, phthalates are now widely dispersed throughout the environment, and most people have detectable amounts in their blood.
“They are everywhere we touch,” Braslau said.
Eventually, Braslau and her team hope to see their safer nonmigratory plasticizers adopted by the plastics industry.
“The potential for this is real,” she said, though she admitted that trying to change the plastics industry is like “trying to turn the Queen Mary.”
The Latest on: Plastics
via Google News
The Latest on: Plastics
U.S. backs G-12 plastics deal, but climate split persists
on June 17, 2019 at 4:14 am
The United States and Japan joined 18 other countries yesterday in backing the creation of a new international "framework" to curb ocean plastics after rejecting a stronger Canadian proposal on the ... […]
Starbucks' wind deal and Unilever's recycled plastics: The sustainability success stories of the week
on June 17, 2019 at 3:49 am
As part of our Mission Possible campaign, edie brings you this weekly round-up of five of the best sustainability success stories of the week from across the globe. Published every week, the new ... […]
Dabur aims to be a plastics waste free company by 2021
on June 17, 2019 at 2:58 am
NEW DELHI: Home-grown FMCG major Dabur India has set its sights on becoming a plastic waste free company by the end of March 2021 by collecting, processing and recycling 20 million kgs of post ... […]
WPP to drop all single-use plastics by 2020
on June 17, 2019 at 1:49 am
WPP has pledged to phase out single-use plastics in its 3,000-plus agency offices and campuses around the world by the end of the year. The company, which has agencies including Wunderman Thompson, ... […]
G-20 urges action on ocean litter of plastics
on June 17, 2019 at 12:29 am
KARIUZAWA, Japan -- Environment ministers from the Group of 20 on Sunday recognized an urgent need to tackle the marine plastic litter that is choking the world's oceans, but failed Sunday to agree on ... […]
Orlando plastics, foam ban could inspire others cities to act, officials in St. Johns County say
on June 15, 2019 at 4:50 pm
Local efforts to ban plastics and Styrofoam, and keep them out of waterways, may have gotten a boost recently. Orlando city commissioners voted to ban plastic straws, bags and plastic foam containers ... […]
Exxon, Saudis Bet on Plastics Growth in Giant Gulf Coast Plant
on June 13, 2019 at 9:18 pm
(Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. and Saudi Arabia’s state-controlled petrochemicals company formally approved construction of a new chemical complex in Texas that will process production from ... […]
Readers Write: Single-use plastics, sustainable farming, traffic enforcement
on June 13, 2019 at 8:04 pm
We as a family read articles like the recent one on plastic use in Canada (“Canada joins movement to ban single-use plastics,” June 11), and we feel a disconnect. We read — and we learn in school — ... […]
'Maybe something good can come of this': Experts address issue of waste plastics in the environment
on June 13, 2019 at 5:17 pm
Walking the silted-in trail where school children used to trot along on field trips to the Wildlife Study Area at Oxley Nature Center is a surreal experience after the flood at Bird Creek. The trail ... […]
via Bing News