Analysis of plasticizers in toys
Plasticizers are chemical compounds added to polymers, mainly PVC (polyvinyl chloride) to make them flexible and soft to the touch. PVC is one of the polymers most widely used in the manufacture of toys.
The plasticizers most frequently used are orthophthalic acid esters, commonly known as phthalates. According to technical literature, toxicological studies on phthalates have revealed their carcinogenic action in cases of high level exposure and also in occupational exposure, which could lead to infertility in adults. However, later studies show that these substances can cause health risks even at low dose levels, prompting European and American institutions to regulate the use of phthalates in many products, especially toys.
In Brazil, INMETRO published Regulation 369 in December 2007, establishing requirements for the acceptance of these substances, consisting of six types of phthalic plasticizers:
- di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate – DEHP
- dibutyl phthalate – DBP
- benzyl butyl phthalate – BBP
- diisononyl phthalate – DINP
- diisodecyl phthalate – DIDP
- di(n-octyl) phthalate – DNOP
These compounds cannot be present in concentrations above 0.1% of the mass of finished material in toys for children under 3 years of age. Above this age, only three of these plasticizers (DEHP, DBP and BBP) are subject to this regulation.
IPT determines the content of phthalates in toys by means of extraction, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, following the methodology described in Standard NBR 13883:1997 – Safety of party products, Annex B – Procedures for extraction and analysis of plasticizing mixes of PVC, and Standard DIPAC 008/2008 – Harmonization of test requirements of INMETRO Regulation 369/07.
Heavy metals are also analyzed in all plastic parts of toys for children of all ages. These metals are extremely toxic inorganic elements that affect human health, such as antimony (Sb), arsenic (As), barium (Ba), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), lead (Pb), mercury (Hg) and selenium (Se). Heavy metals are determined according to Standard NBR NM 300-3:2004 – Toy safety – Part 3: Migration of certain elements by extraction and inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES).