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Anthracene

CAS No-120-12-7, Anthracin, paranaphthalene, Gruenoel

SPRI Emission Reporting Threshold
10.0 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Air
0.1 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Water
0.1 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Waste Water
1.00 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Land
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This sheet is a generic summary, designed to give the reader a basic level of background information about the substance in question. Great care has been taken to represent as effectively and correctly as possible the broad range of (not necessarily consistent) information which is available from a variety of sources. The reader must accept therefore that this sheet has no legal status and cannot be relied upon in any legal proceedings. SEPA disclaims any responsibility or liability whatsoever for errors and omissions in this sheet.
What is it?
Pure anthracene is usually found as a colourless crystal solid. It does not readily dissolve in water, but will dissolve in organic (carbon-containing) solvents. Anthracene is one of a group of compounds known as the Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds (PAHs).
What is it used for?
Only relatively small amounts of anthracene are intentionally manufactured. It is extracted from coal tar to be used in dyes and occasionally for pyrotechnics. It is also found (as part of a complex mixture of PAHs) in creosote, tar paints, waterproof membranes and other products.
Where does it come from?
The vast majority of anthracene is released to the environment when combustion is incomplete (usually because there is insufficient oxygen). Thus, most anthracene is released from vehicle exhausts and domestic wood and coal fires. Emissions also arise from industrial effluents, municipal waste water treatment facilities, waste incinerators and aluminium smelting. Trace amounts are found in cigarette smoke. Anthracene is also released naturally from volcanoes, lightning and forest fires, but the amounts are very small compared to those released from man-made combustion sources.
How might it affect the environment?
Anthracene is deemed a 'Priority Hazardous Substance' under the Water Framework Directive's persistence, bioaccumulation and toxicity criteria. i.e. Anthracene is takes a very long time to break down in the environment, aquatic life will tend to accumulate it, and it is highly toxic to wildlife. In water, anthracene tends to bind fairly strongly to sediments and any other solid matter, but a small proportion can leach to groundwaters.
How might exposure to it affect human health?
Human exposure to anthracene can occur mainly in occupational setting. Exposure can arise from the use of creosote or coal tar, during the combustion of fossil fuels (e.g. vehicle exhausts) and certain industrial processes, as well as consumption of food containing anthracene and smoking. Anthracene can enter the body either by inhalation of air containing anthracene, by dermal contact with anthracene, or by ingestion of anthracene dust. Symptoms of exposure to anthracene include headache, nausea and loss of appetite, inflammation of the gut, slow reactions and weakness and irritation of the upper airways. Dermal contact with anthracene in the presence of UV light may cause skin irritation, manifested as redness and swelling. In 1987, the International Agency for Research on Cancer designated anthracene as being not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans (Group 3).
What steps are being taken to limit the potential impacts?
Releases of anthracene are controlled through the UK Pollution, Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations. It is regulated by the EU Directive on Dangerous Waste Anthracene is listed as a "priority hazardous substance" under the Water Framework Directive. Commision Regulation (EC) No 466/2008 places further controls on PAH manufacturers/distributers. As a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), levels of anthracene in air are also controlled through the UK National Air Quality Strategy. Anthracene oil is not listed as authorised for use in the UK by the Pesticide Safety Directorate. Under the OSPAR Convention which protects the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic Ocean, anthracene is listed as a substance for priority action.