Phthalates or phthalate esters, are esters of phthalic acid mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility) in Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC). PVC is a widely used material, including extensive use in toys and other children's products such as chewy teethers, soft figures and inflatable toys. Phthalates represent 69% of plasticizer use in USA, 92% in Western Europe and 81% in Japan. Overall, they represent 82% of the 2.5 million tonnes (5400 million pounds) of plasticiser use in these three regions (Bizzari et al, 1996). Di- (2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), di-isononylphthalate (DINP), di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP) , benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) and di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP) are phthalates mainly used in converting polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from a hard plastic to a flexible plastic.
Phthalates migrate into the air, into food and/or into people, including babies in their mother’s wombs. Phthalates have been found in indoor air and dust (Rudel et al, 2001), and in human urine, blood, and breast milk (Kato et al, 2003). Phthalates can be released from soft PVC by surface contact, especially where mechanical pressure is applied (e.g. during chewing of a PVC teether). Loss of phthalates by volatilization over time from soft PVC has long been recognized (Cadogan et al, 1993). Releases of phthalates during manufacture, use and disposal of PVC 4 products, in addition to their use as additives in inks, lubricants, perfumes and other open-ended applications, has lead to their ubiquitous distribution and abundance in the global environment. There was concern about their effects on the environment, human reproductive system and function of hormones in the human body. Phthalates which comprise 10-40% of the total weight of toy have been under scrutiny because of their potential health effects, particularly on reproductive development (Duty et al, 2003).