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Low molecular Weight (LMW) phthalates, more simply known as low phthalates, include those with 3-6 carbon atoms in their chemical backbone. The most common types of low phthalates include DEHP, DBP, DIBP and BBP. They represent less than 11% of the European market.
Risk assessments have led to their classification and labelling as Category 1B Reproductive agents. Three of these phthalates, DBP, BBP and DEHP were included on annex XIV of the REACH regulation in Feberuary 2011 and will be phased out by the EU by February 2015 unless an application for authorisation is made before July 2013 and an authorisation granted. DIBP is still on the REACH Candidate List for Authorisation.
Low phthalates are commonly used in Medical devices (DEHP), general purpose PVC (DEHP), adhesives and inks (DIBP).
The most common low phthalates in use is Di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP, CAS No 117-81-7), also known as di-octyl phthalate (DOP), which accounts for about 10% of all plasticiser usage in Europe. It is the phthalate ester of the alcohol 2-ethyl hexanol, which is normally manufactured from propylene via the dimerisation of butyraldehyde.
The historical widespread use of the plasticiser DEHP is a reflection of its all -round plasticising performance providing acceptable properties for a vast amount of cost-effective, general purpose products. Some concerns have been raised repeatedly as to the potential health effects of this substance but recent assessments have confirmed that the exposure of DEHP to the general public should be no cause for concern.