Electronic Products & Technology

Hazardous substances in plastic components

September 18, 2018  By Aury Hathout M.Env, certified environmental auditor at www.enviropass.ca

While seated comfortably on my favorite couch, talking intensively with my friend using my hands-free headset, the cable dangles closely to my mouth – in a way that I am practically chewing on it. This gets me to consider the fact that most of these every day cables are made of plastic PVC. What exactly is PVC? Are some of its incorporated substances regulated?

The case of PVC

PVC is an abbreviation for polyvinyl chloride. It is used widely in many applications. For example, soft PVC is found in cables, insulating tapes, hoses, balls and toys whereas rigid PVC is used for pipes, gutters and window frames. While PVC is normally rigid, the addition of plasticizers makes it flexible. Why is this chlorinated plastic polymer so popular, especially in the electronics industry? Its success is due to its electrical and fire resistant properties as well as its relatively low cost. However, these benefits must not hide the fact that PVC contains certain hazards. Here are examples of regulated hazardous substances, usages, hazards and regulatory references that are associated with PVC parts:

Substance nameCAS #UsageHazardRegulatory Reference
BBP – Benzyl butyl phthalate85-68-7PlasticizerEndocrine disrupting properties, toxic for reproductionREACH 1907/2006


RoHS 2015/863 (as of 2019)

Boric acid10043-35-3, 11113-50-1Flame retardantToxic for reproductionREACH 1907/2006
BPA – Bisphenol A80-05-7Residues from manufacturing processesEndocrine disrupting properties, toxic for reproductionREACH 1907/2006
Cadmium and cadmium compounds7440-43-9, 10108-64-2, 542-83-6, 7790-79-6, 4464-23-7,

and others

Heat and UV stabilizer, pigment (yellow and red based colours including green)Carcinogenic, mutagenic, specific target organ toxicity after repeated exposureREACH 1907/2006

RoHS 2011/65/EU

Chromium and chromium compounds1333-82-0, 7778-50-9, 7789-09-5, 10588-01-9, 7789-00-6,

and others

Pigments (yellow, red and green colours), residues from manufacturing processesCarcinogenic, mutagenicREACH 1907/2006

RoHS 2011/65/EU

DBP – Dibutyl phthalate84-74-2PlasticizerEndocrine disrupting properties, toxic for reproductionREACH 1907/2006

RoHS 2015/863 (as of 2019)

DEHP – Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate117-81-7PlasticizerEndocrine disrupting properties, toxic for reproductionREACH 1907/2006

RoHS 2015/863 (as of 2019)

DiBP – Diisobutyl phthalate84-69-5PlasticizerEndocrine disrupting properties, toxic for reproductionREACH 1907/2006

RoHS 2015/863 (as of 2019)

DHNUP – 1,2-Benzenedicarboxylic acid, di-C7-11-branched and linear alkyl esters68515-42-4PlasticizerToxic for reproductionREACH 1907/2006
DIHP – 1,2-Benzenedicarboxylic acid, di-C6-8-branched alkyl esters, C7-rich71888-89-6PlasticizerToxic for reproductionREACH 1907/2006
Lead and lead compounds75-74-1, 7758-97-6, 12656-85-8, 1344-37-2, 78-00-2 and othersHeat and UV stabilizer, pigment (yellow and red based colours including green)Carcinogenic, toxic for reproduction, persistent bioaccumulative and neurotoxicREACH 1907/2006

RoHS 2011/65/EU

SCCPs – Short Chain Chlorinated Paraffins85535-84-8; 108171-26-2Flame retardantVery persistent, very bioaccumulative and toxicPOP 2015/2030 REACH 1907/2006

Even if we avoid placing PVC devices in our mouths, we are all directly exposed to these chemicals in our daily activities, whether it be at home, work or on the road. In addition, while the quantities of these substances in PVC may be low, they end up accumulating in the environment and are not easily recyclable. Consequently, places like the European Union, China, Taiwan and California have started to regulate these hazardous substances beginning in the electronic products design stage.

Importantly, the European Union has passed the delegated Directive 2015/863, therefore amending the annex II of Directive 2011/65/EU (also called RoHS recast) while adding 4 phthalates to the restricted substances list: BBP, DBP, DEHP and DIBP. As of July 22nd, 2019, the phthalate restrictions will apply at the homogeneous material level of electrical and electronic equipment. In spite of this, products categories 8 (medical devices) and 9 (monitoring and control instruments) are exempted until July 22nd, 2021.

If you are unsure whether the products you design contain PVC parts and restricted substances, you may consider contacting your suppliers and perform risk assessments. It is not too late to proactively update your products’ environmental compliance system in order to secure your company’s business development.


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