Plasticizer is a solvent that is added to plastics resin to increase plasticity and flexibility of the plastic and reduce brittleness. Plasticizer performs best when the molecule contains both polar and non-polar groups. The polar group helps in retaining the plasticizer in the system and the non-polar group helps in reducing the attractive forces in the polymer to increase flexibility. There are close to 500 different types of plasticizer available but only about 50 are commercially available. The most widely used are phthalate and adipates. The phthalate esters plasticizers are the most extensively used plasticizers in the world. According to the analysis phthalates takes up more than 60% of the current plasticizer market. Six types of plasticizers have been banned for use in children’s toys. One such plasticizer is DOP. Di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate commonly known as DOP or DEHP is the phthalate ester manufactured from the reaction of 2-ethyl hexanol alcohol and phthalic anhydride. It is increasingly questioned in many countries now. Several countries have banned it on interim basis such that it should not be present in more than 0.1% in particular products.
But still there is need of a plasticizer which is environment friendly. One such product is epoxidized soybean oil (ESBO). As ESBO is non-toxic, ecofriendly, biodegradable and its relatively low price over traditional phthalate plasticizers, ESBO is gradually replacing dioctyl phthalate (DOP) as more and more governments are putting ban on using phthalate plasticizer. ESBO has also been approved by the FDA for use as an indirect food additive for food contact surfaces which is going to further drive the market towards ESBO. Other such plasticizer is DINP. DINP is itself a phthalate plasticizer but experts point out that it is less hazardous than DOP which makes it subject to fewer rules and regulatory restrictions.
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