What are the effects of terephthalic acid on the environment? Especially oceans

What would happen if the levels of terephthalic acid increased in the ocean?

What would be a way to reduce the impact of this?

  • $\begingroup$ Did you check the SDS of terephthalic acid for GHS hazard statements and pictograms? Is it a dangerous substance according to GHS? $\endgroup$ – Klaus-Dieter Warzecha Mar 20 '17 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ No, how do i find them? @klaus Warzecha $\endgroup$ – SRawes Mar 20 '17 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ I recommend Googling: "MSDS terephthalic acid"... $\endgroup$ – Zhe Mar 20 '17 at 21:52

Here is an MSDS from Eastman Chemical company for Terephthalic acid. In a lot of cases, companies won't have a whole lot of information in their MSDS and some of the handling instructions are just generically generated, but this actually seems to have a lot of the information you are looking for. In particular, it notes that the $LC_{50}$ (the concentration at which $50\%$ of an exposed population dies)for fish is actually greater than the solubility of the substance in water. In general, it looks like it has a very low toxicity, though that doesn't necessarily rule out other ways it could be harmful.


According to "Health and Environmental Effects Profile for Terephthalic Acid, Environmental Criteria and Assessment Office, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati OH 45268, EPA Report Number EPA-600/X-84-109", terephthalic acid appears to be a remarkably benign compound with respect to long term health effects on mammals and microbes. Several species of bacteria were shown to thrive on a diet from which their only carbon source was terephthalic acid. Multiple studies showed that rats who were sustained on a diet of 5% terephthalic acid developed growths and stones in the bladder and kidney. Rats who's diets contained less than 1% terephthalic acid didn't exhibit any long term effects.

Regarding the environmental fate and transport of terephthalic acid, the above publication stated:

Pertinent data regarding the atmospheric fate and transport of tereph- thalic acid were not located in the searched literature. Terephthalic acid aerosols and fumes could conceivably be released during shipping accidents and from molten production processes, but there are no reports of such incidences.

Degradation of terephthalic acid by soil bacteria was shown by multiple studies to happen rapidly (near complete removal via several different studies within a few days) via both aerobic and anaerobic bacterial degradation.

The article states that, based on a single study in 1966, the half-life of terephthalic acid in aquatic media is estimated to be 1.1 years with respect to chemical destruction via hydroxyl radicals. However the net aquatic half life should be much shorter due to biodegradation.

With regard to global production of terephthalic acid, this Wikipedia articl states:

Virtually the entire world's supply of terephthalic acid and dimethyl terephthalate are consumed as precursors to polyethylene terephthalate (PET). World production in 1970 was around 1.75 million tonnes.[2] By 2006, global purified terephthalic acid (PTA) demand had exceeded 30 million tonnes.

Although this represents a significant increase in global production, the fact that terephthalic acid readily biodegrades rather than bioacumulates should result in minimal long term accumulation in the environment.

With the caveat that there is some dearth of studies on the topic, the above evidence seems to indicate that terephthalic acid is a relatively benign compound to both mammalian and bacterial life, and that it is fairly rapidly degraded in the environment.


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