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Lead Stabilisers

Lead is an abundant metal which has been exploited since mining began in ancient historical times. In 1998 lead consumption in OECD countries amounted to 5.2 million tonnes (6 million tones worldwide). The principal uses of lead are shown in the table below.

Lead has the longest history as a stabiliser for PVC and represents around 2 per cent of total OECD lead usage. Lead compounds are the most cost-effective and common form of stabiliser used for PVC. Their stabilising effects are excellent and used for PVC products with long service life and required to endure longer fabrication (heating) hours.

Although use has been decreasing, they still represent nearly 50% of total stabilizers used in PVC applications. A number of different lead compounds are used in PVC formulations in order to provide optimum performance in a particular application. The main compounds used are shown in the table.

Types of Lead Stabilisers

Type Lead Content
Tetra-basic lead sulphate 85%
Tri-basic lead sulphate 82%
Di-basic lead phosphite 82%
Di-basic lead phthalate 75%
Di-basic lead stearate 51%
Normal lead stearate 28%

Concerns have been expressed about possible adverse effects of lead on health and the environment. Independent experts completed a full Risk Assessment on lead in 2004 and the results have been passed on to the European Union authorities.

Under the terms of the PVC Industry Voluntary Commitment, sales of lead stabilisers will be reduced in stages and ended by 2015. The use of lead stabilisers for potable water piping has been voluntarily discontinued end 2005 by the pipe producers members of the European association TEPPFA, which is a partner of Vinyl 2010.

For more information, please see the website www.vinyl2010.org

Properties and Applications
The major properties of PVC compounds incorporating lead stabilisers include:

  • Excellent heat and light stability.
  • Good electrical properties.
  • Excellent short and long-term mechanical properties.
  • Low water absorption.
  • Wide processing range.
  • Good cost/performance ratio.
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