Phthalates And Why It’s Impacting Textile Screen Printing

October 1, 2009 at 7:23 pm 10 comments

Ed Branigan
Ed Branigan

With the recent 2008 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CSPIA) regulating certain phthalate compounds, there has been a lot of discussion and confusion on what phthalates are and how the new regulations affect the textile screen print industry.   So here is Ed Branigan, International Coatings’ Print Applications Manager, giving us his insight into this topic:

“Phthalates are a family of chemical compounds that are used primarily to soften PVC and make it flexible.  They are derived from oil and were first developed and used in the 1930’s but didn’t become widespread until the 1950’s.  There are different types of phthalates, about 50 or so, and they can be found in many consumer products including toys, adhesives, detergents, flooring, deodorant, shampoo, and even cosmetics.

They are in the dashboard and console of your car and also in the coatings of the pills that you take for migraines.  They are also present in paints, coatings and screen printing inks.

Phthalates are plasticizers and along with PVC Resin and Pigment, are one of the three main components of plastisol ink.

In the U.S., the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) brought the issue of phthalates sharply into focus for garment printers.  Several phthalates were banned outright from use in toys or certain products marketed to children and several others were restricted. 

However, there are a couple of important points to note here:

Firstly, the concern with phthalates centers around a particular chemical class of phthalates: Ortho-phthalates. It has been suggested that ortho-phthalates may disrupt the endocrine system in laboratory test animals. A second chemical class – terephthalates is in practice more commonly used in the USA.

Secondly, the CPSIA legislation applies to 6 phthalates only and of these six 3 are banned outright and the remaining 3 are restricted pending further scientific investigation.

In order to be compliant with this law, a product must not contain more than 0.1% of any of the six phthalates restricted or banned.

Phthalates are the most commonly used plasticizers in the world and are pretty ubiquitous at this point.  Because they are so widely used they have already undergone extensive testing for possible health and environmental effects. The CPSIA targets toys and certain products aimed at children and infants but there is some question as to how it applies to children’s clothing in particular those printed with plastisol inks containing phthalate plasticizers. 

Phthalate plasticizers are not chemically bound to PVC so they may leach out. The fear is that young children and infants will chew on or place an offending toy or item containing phthalates into their mouths and absorb some of the chemicals into their bodies. 

Even though there is uncertainty regarding printed garments for children or maybe because of it, many of the major retailers are requiring compliance of all textile articles to the new phthalate restrictions. This puts pressure on the printers and contractors who supply them and they in turn, put pressure on the ink companies to make products that comply with the regulations.

The most important point to remember is that an ink doesn’t need to be free of phthalates in order to comply with CSPIA restrictions.  It just cannot contain one of the six ortho-phthalates.  Keep this in mind when you’re shopping around for inks to meet the new standards as there may be confusing verbiage.  For example, some manufacturers may list their compliant products as “non-phthalate” when in reality the product still does contain phthalates, just not the six restricted ones.

International Coatings actually has taken pro-active steps over the past year and a half regarding this matter:  All International Coatings ink products marked “Phthalate Compliant” or “Non-Phthalate” comply with the 2008 CSPIA regulations .

 I hope this blog sheds a bit more light into what phthalates are, what the new CSPIA regulations mean and how it affects the textile screen print industry.”

For more information, visit our Phthalates Fact Sheet on International Coatings’ website, at


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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. collin  |  October 3, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Nice work bro!

  • […] child and youth products.  (For more info on this topic, you can check out our previous blogs on Phthalates and CPSIA […]

  • 3. Concerned  |  June 9, 2010 at 7:35 am

    So what known health effects do phthalate inks cause?

    • 4. International Coatings  |  July 17, 2010 at 12:02 am

      Because phthalates are so widely used, they have undergone extensive testing for possible health and environmental effects. They are among the most widely researched of all chemical substances. Research findings and current assessments of the health and environmental effects of phthalates are inconclusive as to their risk to human health or the environment.

      Some issues have been raised in recent years about possible human health effects. These are based on results of studies that showed some adverse health effects in rodents, at much higher exposures than normally would be encountered by people. Most attention has centered on ortho-phthalates and the finding that high doses of some of these phthalates can interfere with normal sexual development in male rodents. Sexual development in rodents happens rapidly and shortly before birth. High doses of some phthalates administered to pregnant rats shortly before they gave birth suppressed levels of testosterone, a male hormone key to sexual development in the male fetuses, and interfered with the development of male reproductive organs. However, there were also lower doses at which there were no effects, and even these “no effect doses” were far above those that any human being would be exposed to under any realistic scenario. As shown recently on CBS’ ’60 Minutes’, researches have not been able to duplicate the rat test findings in monkeys, a closer genetic model to humans.

      To learn more about the health and environmental effects of phthalates, visit Links are provided on the site to more detailed discussions, government reports, industry filings with regulatory agencies, and other relevant Web sites.

  • 5. Noor-e-alam siddiquee  |  March 5, 2012 at 9:20 pm


    I would like to know if the garments is printed with 3-D print and then removed the print. is it still possible to find the residual of phthalate in the garments? If yes then what is the way to remove the phthalate completely from the printed area?


    • 6. International Coatings  |  March 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      Hi Siddiquee,

      This is a tough question, since you did not detail much about what type of 3-D ink you are using, and whether you were using a phthalate-compliant ink or not. Also, by 3-D print, do you mean a print that can be viewed with 3-D glasses or a print that has a thickness/texture to it?

      Either way, if the ink you were using contained banned phthalates and was fused with the fabric during curing, then yes, the garment may still contain phthalates. I checked with our lab director, and she said there is really no way to remove the residual once the ink is cured.

      Hope this answers your question.

  • 7. bdbank  |  September 24, 2013 at 9:08 am

    before the quring is it possible to rduce the ph

    • 8. International Coatings  |  September 25, 2013 at 10:30 am

      the only way to reduce phthalates before curing is to reduce the phthalate content in the ink before making it – so in the raw materials, by either using raw materials that do not have the banned phthalates or using raw materials that are non-phthalate. I was informed by our Lab Director that Phthalates do not “burn off” during curing.

      International Coatings currently uses only non-phthalate raw materials in producing our inks.

  • 9. contstruction  |  September 6, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Do you have any video of that? I’d want to find out more details.


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