Editor's note-Modern Plastics' annual look at the additives market this year focuses on three key categories in the following reports: plasticizers, colorants, and flame retardants. The Additives Gallery of new product developments is on pp. 41 to 48.
Like the sluggish plastics market, world plasticizer demand showed minimal growth last year and similar results are expected this year. Analysts at Chemical Market Resources (Houston, TX) say global demand, which was at 4,647,000 tonnes in 2000, is showing 2.1 percent annual growth for 2003.
In the past, this stagnation could have pointed to the enduring argument-based less on scientific evidence than emotion-over phthalates' use in vinyl. Opponents of plasticizers, headed by Greenpeace, claim they are harmful, and contend that both di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP)-used to make PVC medical tubing and IV bags flexible-and di-isononyl phthalate (DINP)-found in soft vinyl toys-should be banned. Many in the industry say environmentalists' arguments hide a desire to abolish the PVC and chlorine industries altogether.
Tim Edgar, deputy director of the European Council of Plasticisers and Intermediates (ECPI; Brussels), says the latest research studies have taken the wind out of many critics' sails.
Results of a study conducted by a Japanese research institute and released in March show that high doses of DEHP in primates have no testicular effects on reproduction. These results can ostensibly be correlated to humans as the animals studied (marmosets) are among the closest species to humans in terms of reproductive development.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC; Washington, DC) denied a petition to ban the use of PVC in children's toys, rejecting arguments by environmental groups that it could damage infants' livers and kidneys. The CPSC said "there is no demonstrated health risk" from vinyl toys containing DINP.
The Commission's final decision was based in part on a study it conducted on mouthing habits of toddlers. Results showed that children who suck on toys would ingest DINP at levels far below the acceptable daily intake level. DINP and four other phthalates-DEHP, DIDP, butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), and din-n-butyl phthalate (DBP)-have been banned in Europe since 1999 in childcare products and toys, due to fears of possible migration and because no test data was then available. Edgar says recently completed risk-assessment tests on DINP show there was no risk, that the ban was unnecessary, and that the EU commission should lift it.
In the United States., BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany) expects to complete the takeover of the plasticizers business of Sunoco (Philadelphia, PA) by the end of September. The company is considering switching from lower-value plasticizers such as di-octyl phthalate (DOP) to more value-added products, as well as possibly producing its non-phthalate plasticizer, Hexamol DINCH, there. This latter development may mean the emotional arguments against phthalates are still in the minds of many processors.
Earlier this year, Shaw Industries (Dalton, GA), the U.S.'s largest carpet-maker, received a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for a new polyolefin-based carpet tile, EcoWorx, which replaces a PVC plasticized with phthalate ester. Shaw's VP for environmental development, Steven L. Bradfield, says the decision to find a PVC alternative was based on the increasing health and environmental debates surrounding chlorinated plastics and phthalates.
At this year's NPE show a number of products intended as alternatives to existing plasticizers were introduced. Teknor Apex (Pawtucket, RI) debuted its plasticizer-free FreeFlex PVC compounds, using polyolefin elastomers to yield flexibility. Crompton (Middlebury, CT) showed a liquid epoxidized octyl tallate, Drapex 4.4, which imparts low-temperature flexibility as well as heat and light stability in vinyl compounds. Bayer Chemicals (Pittsburgh, PA), a division of Bayer (Leverkusen, Germany), added Ultramoll VPSP51022 to its lineup of PVC softeners. This low-viscosity polymeric plasticizer shows good migration resistance.
Robert Colvin [email protected]