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  • Gemma Rubio doctorates with a thesis on phthalates in the footwear sector

Gemma Rubio doctorates with a thesis on phthalates in the footwear sector

The researcher and graduate in Chemistry, Gemma Rubio, is the most recent member of INESCOP to obtain, with the'cum laude' distinction, the doctorate degree after the defence of her thesis 'Study of the problem and resolution in the quantification of phthalates in the footwear sector'. This brings to 15 the number of doctors on our team.

Gemma Rubio, researcher at INESCOP’s Chemical Analysis Laboratory, has shown that the presence of phthalates in the materials used for the manufacture of footwear does not pose a risk to the users’ health. This is one of the results of her thesis, in which she also proposes innocuous alternatives to continue providing polymeric materials with flexibility.

The thesis, entitled 'Study of the problems and resolution in the quantification of phthalates in the footwear sector', has been developed within the framework of the Industrial Doctorate program of the University of Alicante (UA), under the direction of Luis Gras, professor in the department of Analytical Chemistry, Nutrition and Bromatology, and Ana Torró, head of Quality and Certification of INESCOP, and has achieved the 'cum laude’ distinction.

Tesis Gemma Rubio INESCOP

Phthalates are a type of plasticiser used in multiple industries to confer certain properties that enhance polymeric materials. In fact, they are used in a wide range of consumer products: textiles, toys, cosmetics, food packaging, automotive, etc., and it is estimated that phthalates are more than 80% of the plasticisers production. In the case of footwear, these are used to improve the flexibility of materials and can be found in coated leathers, textiles, insoles, ornaments and soles.

However, phthalates can pose an environmental and public health risk, and therefore need to be controlled by chemical analysis in order not to exceed the limits allowed under current international regulations. In this sense, INESCOP works in a European Committee for the Standardisation of footwear to ensure the quality of materials and the safety of the user, through the collaboration of our experts in the development of a standard methodology for the detection and quantification of these compounds.

Although companies in the sector always try to offer a safe product, the high number of positive cases in phthalates and the consequent concern of the industry are the factors that have led INESCOP to investigate the optimal conditions of phthalate analysis for their exhaustive control, as well as the validation of materials formulated with alternative plasticisers, which could instantly be implemented in the industry, with optimal results.

Furthermore, in order to provide reassurance to industry and society regarding the risk the consumer takes from exposure to these plasticisers when wearing footwear, this thesis has shown that there is no danger of these compounds reaching the user. To this end, the researcher from INESCOP’s Chemical Analysis Laboratory has quantified the migration capacity of phthalates in industrial samples, simulating 'real' exposure conditions by means of artificial sweat and saliva.

With the completion of this thesis, INESCOP achieves yet another doctorate, demonstrating our research capacity and scientific excellence as a technological centre.

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