1,4-Dioxane

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1,4-Dioxane is a chemical compound with the formula C4H8O2. It is a colorless liquid with a faint sweet odor similar to that of diethyl ether. 1,4-Dioxane is used primarily as a solvent for various organic compounds and as a stabilizer in the manufacture of chlorinated solvents. Despite its useful applications, 1,4-Dioxane is also a known environmental pollutant and has been identified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Properties[edit | edit source]

1,4-Dioxane is a cyclic ether that is fully miscible with water and many organic solvents. It has a boiling point of 101.1 degrees Celsius and a melting point of 11.8 degrees Celsius. Due to its stability and miscibility, 1,4-Dioxane is often used as a solvent in various industrial processes, including the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and plastics.

Uses[edit | edit source]

The primary use of 1,4-Dioxane is as a solvent in the manufacturing of other chemicals. It is also used in the production of detergents, cosmetics, and shampoos as a viscosity enhancer or to help dissolve other substances. In addition, 1,4-Dioxane serves as a stabilizer for chlorinated solvents, preventing them from decomposing in storage.

Health Effects[edit | edit source]

Exposure to 1,4-Dioxane can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact. The compound can cause immediate health effects such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as central nervous system depression. Long-term exposure has been associated with more severe health issues, including liver and kidney damage, and it has been classified as a Group 2B carcinogen by the IARC, indicating it is possibly carcinogenic to humans. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also identified 1,4-Dioxane as a likely human carcinogen.

Environmental Impact[edit | edit source]

1,4-Dioxane is persistent in the environment due to its resistance to biodegradation. It can contaminate water supplies, including groundwater and surface water, posing risks to aquatic life and potentially entering the drinking water supply. Efforts to remove 1,4-Dioxane from water include advanced oxidation processes and adsorption techniques, but these methods can be costly and complex.

Regulation and Safety[edit | edit source]

Due to its health and environmental risks, the production and use of 1,4-Dioxane are regulated in many countries. The EPA has established guidelines for acceptable levels of 1,4-Dioxane in drinking water, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set permissible exposure limits for workers. Safe handling practices, including the use of personal protective equipment and proper ventilation, are recommended to minimize exposure.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

While 1,4-Dioxane is a valuable solvent in various industrial applications, its potential health and environmental impacts necessitate careful handling and regulation. Ongoing research into safer alternatives and more effective remediation methods is essential to mitigate the risks associated with this compound.

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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD