This Wikipedia article describes phthalates as, "esters of phthalic acid mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity)." It goes even more in depth to the uses of phthalates: phthalates are used in a large variety of products, from enteric coatings of pharmaceutical pills and nutritional supplements to viscosity control agents, gelling agents, film formers, stabilizers, dispersants, lubricants, binders, emulsifying agents, and suspending agents. End-applications include adhesives and glues, agricultural adjuvants, building materials, personal-care products, medical devices, detergents and surfactants, packaging, children's toys, modelling clay, waxes, paints, printing inks and coatings, pharmaceuticals, food products, and textiles. Phthalates are also frequently used in soft plastic fishing lures, caulk, paint pigments, and sex toys made of so-called "jelly rubber". Phthalates are used in a variety of household applications such as shower curtains, vinyl upholstery, adhesives, floor tiles, food containers and wrappers, and cleaning materials. Personal-care items containing phthalates include perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hair spray.
Phthalates are also found in modern electronics and medical applications such as catheters and blood transfusion devices. The most widely used phthalates are di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), and diisononyl phthalate (DINP). DEHP is the dominant plasticizer used globally in PVC due to its low cost. Benzylbutylphthalate (BBP) is used in the manufacture of foamed PVC, which is used mostly as a flooring material, though its use is decreasing rapidly in the Western countries. Phthalates with small R and R' groups are used as solvents in perfumes and pesticides.