Phosphate esters, popularly known as organophosphates, are esters of phosphoric acid and form the foundation of the production of many agrochemicals. Phosphate esters primarily find applications as lubricant additives. Due to their overall stability, phosphate esters also find applications in numerous industries, such as the flame retardant industry, surfactant industry, detergent industry, food industry, and in wastewater treatment.
Phosphate esters possess a competitive advantage over other ester-based fluids in terms of performance and thermal stability. The fire-resistant and anti-wear properties of phosphate esters make them a preferred choice in important applications, such as fire retardants, hydraulic systems, emulsifying agents, lubricants, hydrotropes in cleaning applications, corrosion inhibitors, anti-static agents, and wetting agents. They are also used as plasticizers, solvents, and additives. The most frequently used phosphate esters are malathion, parathion, phosmet, tetrachlorvinphos, azamethiphos, methyl parathion, diazinon, azinphos methyl, and fenitrothion.
It has been observed that prominent manufacturers of phosphate esters worldwide have been focusing on strategic acquisitions and geographical expansions to increase their manufacturing strengths and capabilities, as well as to increase their penetration in regions with high growth potential considering the global phosphate ester market.Also, as there has been a significant demand for phosphate esters from the automobile industry, rapid growth of the latter is expected to indirectly drive the market demand for phosphate esters.
It has been observed that governments of countries in the Asia Pacific region have been endorsing favorable policies for the production of phosphate esters to meet their respective demands; hence, the region is expected to play a vital role in the development of the phosphate esters market in the next few years. In terms of application, the use of phosphate esters for the manufacture of lubricants is expected to continue to dominate the market, as it has done in recent past.
There has been a rising demand globally for different pesticides, herbicides, weedicides and fertilizers, thereby augmenting their manufacture. This trend of the agrochemical industry is also expected to translate into rising demand for phosphate esters, as they find direct applications in the agrochemical industry.Phosphate esters in different forms are finding increasing applications, such as a therapeutic agent and in public recreational spaces, residential landscaping and pest control programs worldwide.
However, it should be noted that the manufacture and research and development involving phosphate esters incurs high production costs for producers; lubricant products based on phosphate esters are also found to be relatively expensive. These cost factors could slow down the growth rate of phosphate esters in the near future. Phosphate esters are found to be hazardous, as they
could cause skin corrosion in case of skin contact, and could cause serious eye damage in case of contact with the eyes. Phosphate esters are found to cause respiratory tract infections in case of inhalation and are known to be toxic to the aquatic environment. They are also flammable and possess explosive properties to some extent, thereby requiring special storage and handling requirements. Hence, these factors, in turn, could hamper the market growth rate of phosphate esters.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified phosphate esters as toxic to humans and wildlife. In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is the regulatory body associated with the regulation of the use of phosphate esters in agriculture. Besides, other regulatory bodies, such as the Health and Safety Executive, Veterinary Products Committee, Committee on Safety of Medicines,
Advisory Committee on Pesticides, and Committee on Toxicity have been into the regulations pertaining to the research and use of phosphate esters. These bodies have been monitoring the harmful effects of phosphate esters on humans, microbes and animals, thereby restricting the market growth. Considering this regulatory perspective, manufacturers have been spending and working towards developing phosphate esters with reduced toxicity levels, such that they could comply with the relevant regulations.
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