Phthalates are a family of chemical compounds primarily used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or vinyl, flexible and pliant. Phthalates are the most commonly used plasticizers in the world and are categorized as high and low, depending on molecular weight.
High phthalates are used in a multitude of products that demand high performance, long-lasting wear and durability. Flooring contains phthalates because it makes the floor stain resistant, low maintenance and more durable. Phthalates are used in pool liners because of their weather-resistant properties.
Other everyday consumer items that depend on phthalates to function properly include electrical cables, automobile interiors, flexible hoses, wall coverings, coated textiles, luggage, sporting equipment, roofing membranes and footwear.
In recent years, scientists have suggested environmental chemicals interfere with the production of hormones in humans and other animals. Phthalates are not synthetic hormones, nor do they mimic estrogen or testosterone. The potential effects of phthalates on the production of estrogens, androgens and other hormones have been well studied and are the subject of numerous reviews.
In fact, high phthalates are among the most thoroughly studied family of compounds in the world. Government scientific agencies and regulatory bodies worldwide have supported the safety of phthalates in consumer products, and the research indicates phthalates break down within minutes after entering the body and are metabolized within 12 to 24 hours. Additionally, there are no scientific studies that have demonstrated that exposure to phthalates is linked to diseases like autism or obesity.