Most of us almost never or very rarely come across the term “phthalates”. What are phthalates?

Phthalates are a group of chemical compounds that are esters of phthalic acid and aliphatic alcohols. Phthalates are added in liquid state to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) based plastic polymers to increase their mobility, making them more flexible and less brittle. They are also known as plasticizers or softeners and are found in most plastic products. That means they are in almost everything that surrounds us.


Most often unconsciously, or because we simply have no choice, we use products that contain phthalates on a daily basis. 

Companies that manufacture or import products containing phthalates in a concentration of more than 0.1% are legally obliged to inform all suppliers, consumers or users about the presence of these harmful substances in the product, as well as how to use it safely. 

In the EU and Serbia, a certain group of phthalates is banned in the production of children’s toys and child care products.

Some of the products in everyday use that contain phthalates:

  • Building materials, paints and adhesives
  • Cleaning agents and pesticides
  • Cosmetics
  • Footwear
  • PVC packaging of food and other products
  • PVC storage containers
  • Exercise mats, sports equipment and other sports requisites
  • Children’s toys, backpacks, raincoats…



Phthalates used in the production of PVC components do not bind to their polymer compounds, so over time they are gradually being released, and, in contact with products containing them, users may be exposed to the harmful effects of these substances. 

Many studies have shown the harmfulness of phthalates on the human body and the connection with hormonal imbalance and carcinogenesis. 

Unfortunately, almost a third of plastic products tested on the Serbian market without any label contain an increased concentration of phthalate above 0.1%, so extra caution is needed when using products that contain plastic components. 

A new project within the “PROMIS” program for projects of excellent young researchers, which will be financed by the Science Fund of the Republic of Serbia, also testifies to the still insufficient research into the harmful effects of phthalates. 

The team of researchers, guided by data that one of the most commonly used phthalates of DEHP was found in human blood, breast milk and urine, will focus its research on solving the potential link between DEHP exposure and infertility in women, an important problem not only for Serbia but also wider. 

It is believed that this extremely important project will contribute to the adoption of regulatory measures that would limit the use of this phthalate.


  • Choose products with PHTHALATE FREE labels (for certain products it is combined with BPA FREE label)
  • Choose products that clearly indicate the share of phthalates in the total mass of the products, as well as instructions for safe handling of such products
  • Avoid the use of phthalate-containing PVC products that have alternative solutions (eg. plastic cups and containers made of PVC, children’s toys, exercise mats, shampoos, face and body cosmetics of dubious origin…) 
  • Avoid buying food products packed in PVC materials as much as possible
  • Do not store food products in plastic packaging containing phthalates

And one more thing… Do not hesitate to ask if the products you buy contain substances harmful to our health! 

When it comes to the products you use directly, take some time to make the best possible choice. 

When it comes to products that you indirectly choose through a particular service, such as food packaging at your favorite restaurants, exercise mats at your local gym or play area in your children’s daycare, demand solutions that are in the best interest of your health. It is a right, but also an obligation of every citizen, so that we can all live together in a healthier environment that will enable us to grow and develop in a high-quality way. 

Author: Nikola Aničić

Proofreading: Sena Mihailović