Towards safer plastics
The plastics industry is one of the most dynamic sectors today in terms of R&D. It's always interesting to note the works of scientists especially in areas where consumer's health and safety are concerned. Recently, scientists have published the first report on a new way of preventing potentially harmful plasticizers from migrating from one of the most widely used groups of plastics. This could lead to a new generation of PVC plastics that are safer than those now used in packaging, medical tubing, toys, and other products, they say. Their study is in ACS' Macromolecules, a bi-weekly journal: “Phthalate Plasticizers Covalently Bound to PVC: Plasticization with Suppressed Migration."
Helmut Reinecke and colleagues note that manufacturers add large amounts of plasticizers to PVC to make it flexible and durable. Plasticizers may account for more than one-third of the weight of some PVC products. Phthalates are the mainstay plasticizers. Unfortunately, they migrate to the surface of the plastic over time and escape into the environment. As a result, PVC plastics become less flexible and durable. In addition, people who come into contact with the plastics face possible health risks. In 2009, the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of several phthalate plasticizers for use in manufacture of toys and child care articles.
In the study, scientists describe a way to make phthalate permanently bond, or chemically attach to, the internal structure of PVC so that it will not migrate. Laboratory tests showed that the method completely suppressed the migration of plasticizer to the surface of the plastic. “This approach may open new ways to the preparation of flexible PVC with permanent plasticizer effect and zero migration," the article notes.