Dibutyl phthalate is a colorless, oily liquid, with chemical formula C16H22O4. It is soluble in organic solvents like alcohols, ether and benzene. The compound is absorbed through the skin and is known to enhance the capacity of chemicals that cause genetic mutations, although it is not a mutagen by itself. Approximately 5 million tonnes of dibutyl phthalate are produced annually around the world.
Dibutyl phthalate is produced by the reaction of n-butanol with phthalic anhydride which can easily be obtained from fossil fuel and cracking of petroleum products, hence making these products readily available for the production of dibutyl phthalate. This reaction is performed in the presence of concentrated sulfuric acid which acts as a catalyst for this reaction.
Dibutyl phthalate is used as an additive in adhesives and printing inks. Dibutyl phthalate is also added to PVC plastics in order to make it flexible. These modified PVC are widely used in plumbing for carrying sewerage and other corrosive materials.
Dibutyl phthalate is used in nail products as a solvent for nail polishes and as a plasticizer that prevents the polish from becoming brittle. It is also used in other cosmetic products for enhancing their fragrance.
Dibutyl phthalate is used as an ectoparasiticide, which is a drug used to kill parasites that live on the body surface and cause ectoparasitic infestation.