An alternative to phthalates is on its way

Thursday 30 Jan 14


Anette Schnipper
Head of Division
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 75 23
The harmful phthalates, which have been used as softeners in e.g. plastic toys and food packaging, will possibly be replaced by a plastic softener produced from sunflower oil. The National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, has participated in a project, in which a competitive, environmentally friendly plasticiser was developed as an alternative to phthalates.

A process to use sunflower oil to produce a safe and environmentally friendly plastic softener has been successfully developed. The National Food Institute has contributed to this.

Inexpensive softener based on sunflower oil

This new product is based on sunflower oil and is intended to replace the phthalates as well as a plasticiser based on oil from the castor bean. The latter plasiticiser is safe to use, but it is expensive to produce.

As a result of the project the plasticiser based on sunflower oil can be produced in larger scale, and with the newly developed process the industry sector is offered a real alternative for making plastic more flexible. Typically plasiticisers are needed in products such as vinyl floors, tooth brushes, toys, medical equipment and food packagings.

Safe product

The National Food Institute participated in the just completed project in parallel to the process development to test for possible adverse effects of the plasticiser which might have stopped the process development.

With the help of selected computer, cell and animal models the institute tested the new plasticiser for adverse effects. The findings clearly indicate that the new product has a high safety profile, comparable to the product made of castor oil, while posessing the same plasticizing properties and stability.

Certificate awarded for realising the project

The project was executed jointly by the National Food Institute, DTU Chemistry, DuPont Nutrition Biosciences ApS and the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Aarhus University in the period 2009-2013. The budget amounted to 15 million DKK, 8 million DKK of which were granted by The Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation. At the foundation’s Networking day in 2013, the participants were awarded a certificate for having realised the project.

Two patent applications for technologies developed during the project have been filed. Now the project participants work on solving the last outstanding issues of the production process.

Read more

The project is described on the website of The Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation
25 JULY 2021