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Butanedioic acid


Butanedioic acid, also known as succinic acid and spirit of amber, is a dicarboxylic acid that can be obtained from amber. It is approved as a food additive by the FDA.


Historically, butanedioic acid was harvested from amber and used externally on the skin to treats aches and pains related to arthritis.

Modern-day uses and products include:

  • Industrial hand cleaner
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Paint stripper
  • Pesticides
  • Body soap
  • Food additive
  • Pharmaceutical additive
  • Oil dispersants


Human Health Effects

  • Liquid is strong irritant to eye and may irritate skin by removing natural oils. (NOAA)
  • Ingestion causes diarrhea and intestinal bloating. (NOAA)
  • Listed as a suspected neurotoxicant (EDF)
  • Toxic to blood (MSDS)
  • It is classified as moderately toxic. (HSDB)
  • Severely damaging to rabbit eyes at 10% concentration. (HSDB)

A number of animal studies have been conducted to determine potential effects of human exposure:

Oral Exposure
High doses from oral exposure have caused these effects in mice and rats: depression, diarrhea, lethargy, irritation and hemorrhage of the gastrointestinal tract, and death.

Skin Exposure
Exposure to the skin has caused these effects in rabbits: erythema, edema, premature skin death, irritation, and coarse skin.

Repeated Exposure
Mice and rats repeatedly exposed to butanedioic acid showed gastrointestinal problems, reduced weight gain, and death at certain doses. Dogs did not experience any adverse effects from repeated exposure.

Reproductive and Developmental Effects
Oral exposure caused these effects in rats: low body weight (of adults), decreases in maternal weight gain, low birth weight of pups, and malformed fetuses.

Environmental Effects

  • In tests, rainbow trout died at levels of 40-80mg/L (EPA)
  • In tests, rainbow trout died within 1 hour of exposure to 50-100 ppm (EPA)
  • Possibility of absorbing to sediment (HSDB)
  • Listed as slightly toxic to fish (PANNA)
  • Butanedioic acid, 2-sulfo-, 1,4-bis(2-ethylhexyl) ester, sodium salt (1:1) is readily biodegradable.
  • Toxicity levels for aquatic life are as follows:
    • In tests, fish experienced a 50% or higher mortality rate when concentrations of butanedioic acid, 2-sulfo-, 1,4-bis(2-ethylhexyl) ester, sodium salt were between 28-37mg/liter of water after 4 complete days of exposure.
    • In tests, 50% or more aquatic invertebrates experienced negative effects from a 2-day exposure to a concentration of 36.2mg/liter of water.


Screening-Level Hazard Characterization of High Production Volume Chemicals.

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