Topics: Endocrine disruptor, Phthalate, Endocrine system Pages: 14 (4871 words) Published: February 27, 2014
Library Research Paper

Phthalates, Environmental Pollutants

Today, there is a great concern on chemical substances that accumulate in the environment which become pollutants in high concentrations that can cause serious threats and hazards in the environment and in the organisms living in it by imitating hormones and changing the normal functions of the endocrine system and by carrying diseases in humans and other organisms. These compounds can be naturally occurring in the environment but most of them are by-products of human activities like in chemical industries or companies. Phthalates are one of these chemical compounds that are found abundantly in the environment. Phthalates belong to a family of chemical compounds or substances which are based on a benzene ring (a six carbon membered compound), to which is attached a pair of carbonyl groups in consecutive positions on the benzene ring (Sheeba et. al.). They are a family of industrial compounds with a common chemical structure, dialkylor alkyl arylestersof1, 2-benzenedicarboxylicacid. They are usually clear liquids when they are found in nature, most of them are odorless, some with faint sweet odors and some with faint yellow color.

Phthalates are known to be one of the most abundant chemical compounds that act as pollutants in the world and they are commonly found in the environment or in nature where most humans and other living systems are exposed at low levels in air, water, and food specifically di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), which is the most commonly used as plasticizers. It was reported that 18 billion pounds of phthalates are produced and used annually and 2M tons of DEHP are produced each year worldwide (Lorz, et. al.). They are widely used as additives in plastic manufacturing to improve mechanical properties of plastic resin, particularly flexibility. They are however not covalently bounded to the resins; thus, phthalates are able to migrate and accumulate in the environment (Tanaka et. al.). Aside from plasticizers, phthalates are used in the production of paints, lacquers and cosmetics (Harris et. al.). They are also used in adhesives, detergents, toys, and food packaging. It is considered as one of the most ubiquitous man-made contaminants in the environment since tons of plastic containing phthalate are disposed in landfills yearly. Thus, these compounds migrate in surface and ground waters (Jobling et. al.). For example, Phthalic acid esters ( esters of 1,2-benzenedicarboxylic acid phthalates) are widely used in the major product category like construction, automotive, household products, packages and medicinal products. They are in a large family of chemical substances that are used as plasticizers mainly in the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resins. As plasticizers, they are widely used in building materials, home furnishings, transportation, clothing, sometimes in food, and packaging of medicinal products. Since they are used to provide flexibility. In terms of health effects, phthalates are categorized as endocrine disruptors or hormonally active agents (HAAs) because of their capability to regulate the processes in the endocrine system of an organism (ATSDR). There are a number of definitions that exist today for endocrine disruptors. These are some of the definitions of these substances. Endocrine disruptors are exogenous agents that interfere in the production, release, transport, metabolism, binding, action or elimination of natural hormones in the body responsible for the maintenance of having a stable internal environment and the regulation of developmental processes of an organism (Kavlock et al.). Pait and Nelson defined them as “compounds that either mimic or antagonize the action of naturally occurring hormones” (Pait and Nelson). In 1996, the European Commission defined an endocrine disrupter as “an exogenous substance that causes adverse health effects in an intact organism, or...

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