Substitution of phthalates from childrenswear prints
Phthalates were widely used as a plasticiser in prints for clothing and other applications for a number of decades, and such print chemicals are still widely available and used in industry. Polyurethane and polyacrylate are used as alternative material to substitute phthalates and PVC from childrenswear prints.
The substituted phthalates are listed on SDSC. They are endocrine disruptors and one is classified 2B carcinogen by IARC. PVC is not listed on SDSC. The alternatives polyurethane and polyacrylate were assessed against hazards in the hazardous Substance Database according to SUBSPORT Screening Criteria (SDSC) and are not listed in the database. Two example products, for which MSDS are available on request, do not contain hazardous ingredients according to producer’s classification.
In light of the concern over phthalates, Marks and Spencer took the decision to evaluate alternative technology for the print techniques and, bearing in mind the fact that endocrine disruption was amongst the concerns, the decision was taken to prioritise childrenswear.
The initial development was to retain PVC as the base material for the print, but to avoid the phthalates that were banned under toy legislation – so called 6P-free PVC formulations.
Firstly, there were attempts to develop phthalate-free PVC formulations. According to the producer phthalates are incredibly good from a technical perspective and the early plasiticiser alternatives provided formulations that could be manufactured and printed without too many problems but the resulting prints had a much drier feel than the standard product and the prints were prone to cracking due to their poor elasticity.
Marks and Spencer were working with formulators, including CHT/Bezema and Magna Colours, to develop water-based PVC-free formulations. They were largely based on polyurethane, polyacrylate, or blends of the two and print products that have a low level depth of application could be produced with a degree of success. However, initially it was not possible to produce products that have a high level of depth of application and 3D logos without very long printing processes with multiple layers being applied to build up a design. Printers also reported that the early water-based systems were very difficult to manage and the printing inks had a tendency to dry in the screens, causing printing faults and product rejections. This was resolved over a period of months working closely with chemical suppliers and printers.
Final versions available in production meet all production and customer requirements for delivering suitable prints on textiles for childrenswear clothing, based upon PVC-free and phthalate-free formulations.
This case story is provided by a user describing an alternative for childrenswear prints without phthalates and PVC. Polyurethane and polyacrylate are used as alternative materials. The alternative polymers are not included in the SUBSPORT database on hazardous substances according to SUBSPORT Screening Criteria (SDSC). However, the exact composition of the alternative has not been disclosed to SUBSPORT. Some monomers that can be used for the production of polyurethane and polyacrylate have hazardous properties and are listed on SDSC. If present in the alternative workers may be exposed to them in the production or printing process and appropriate protection measures have to be implemented and further research is recommended.
Type of information supplier
Producer / distributor
Marks & Spencer plc
35 North Wharf Road
London W2 1NW
Tel: +44 207 935 4422
Publication or last update: 22.03.2013