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  • February 15, 2024
  • ACS

Legacy and Emerging Plasticizers and Stabilizers in PVC Floorings and Implications for Recycling

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Environ. Sci. Technol. 2024, 58, 4, 1894–1907. Publication Date:January 19, 2024:

This study reports on a systematic analysis of 151 new polyvinyl chloride (PVC) floorings in the Swiss market to assess the presence of hazardous chemicals in building and construction plastics. The study employed various analytical methods, including X-ray fluorescence for elemental analysis, targeted and suspect gas chromatography–mass spectrometry for ortho-phthalates and alternative plasticizers, and bioassay tests to evaluate cytotoxicity, oxidative stress, endocrine, mutagenic, and genotoxic activities for selected samples.

Surprisingly, 16% of the samples contained regulated chemicals above the recommended threshold of 0.1 wt %, with lead and bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) being the predominant substances. The presence of these chemicals is attributed to the use of recycled PVC in the production of new flooring, indicating that uncontrolled recycling practices may hinder the phase-out of hazardous substances.

Additionally, 29% of the samples exhibited levels of other ortho-phthalates, specifically diisononyl and diisodecyl phthalates (DiNP and DiDP), above the recommended limit of 0.1 wt %. Furthermore, 17% of the samples demonstrated a potential to cause biological effects. Considering some overlap between these groups, a cumulative 35% of the samples raised concerns regarding potential hazards.

Moreover, both suspect screening and bioassay results indicated the presence of additional potentially hazardous substances in the PVC floorings. In conclusion, the study underscores the urgent need to accelerate the phase-out of hazardous substances, enhance transparency in disclosing chemical compositions in plastics, and facilitate the transition towards a safe and sustainable circular economy, aiming to safeguard human and ecosystem health.


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