Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What the heck is PPH ?

So - now the spill contained "PPH" "consisting of polyglycol ether".  Not enough to go on yet to parse this one out.

Well ... glycol ethers are a group of solvents based ethylene glycol.

Ethylene glycol (C2H6O2), also called glycol and glycol alcohol, is a colorless, odorless, syrupy
liquid that has a sweet taste and is used to make to make antifreeze and de-icing solutions, as well as in a host of other products from hydraulic fluid, plasticizers and cosmetics to paint and safety explosives. If you have ever been in a haunted house or theater that used a fog machine, you were probably smelling it. This stuff is all over the place. 

If you are interested, the ToxFAQ sheet for ethylene glycol is here. Small exposures are generally thought to be safe, while large exposure can cause serious illness and death. BUT, that isn't the chemical that was spilled.

Once you get into the territory of poly, which means many, well as I mentioned before - small differences in structure can mean large differences in toxicity. 

The closest I have come to PPH is with FATTY ALCOHOL POLYGLYCOL ETHER(68213-23-0) at


This stuff seems to be a minor component in several products, but virtually everything I have seen so far says some variation of "unknown" for toxicity. Here is one MSDS sheet for a product with the Trade Name: DEUREX EMU-E that is a Fatty alcohol polyglycol ether.

It is listed as a skin irritant and it is used as an emulsifier or dispersant.  Hum - I wonder what effect that would have had on the solubility/behavior of the other chemicals ?  

Right - so one again we have some terribly vague information about what exactly got spilled but is should be okay, on the sound basis of virtually no data.  Wonderful.

You know, an IUPAC name would be really helpful for once and it should be on the MSDS - any chance reporters might start using them rather than random nicknames? It would cut down on confusion!

It is late so I will get back to this tomorrow, but it looks like this stuff is a type of compound known as a surfactant  (surface active agent) which means that it is soluble in both hydrophillic (water loving) and hydrophobic (water fearing) chemicals. Just like detergent, it is used to allow you to dissolve oils into water (like washing that frying pan) through the creation of micelles.  Surfactants are generally designed to have low toxicity (again like detergent) but if this stuff was just for washing coal, they might not have been that careful about it.  I will get more information in the morning. 

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