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Subject: Triton


From: Gregory D. Smith <smithgd<-a>
Date: Wednesday, August 17, 2005
It is true that Dow announced back in March of 2004 that it would be
ceasing production of Triton XL-80N because of low demand.  The
announcement can be found at


    **** Moderator's comments: The above URL has been wrapped for
    email. There should be no newline.

Triton XL-80N has been a subject of discussion on the DistList and
in a number of recent publications for its potential role as a
replacement for the commonly utilized Triton X-100 nonionic
detergent.  The latter surfactant (actually its metabolic
degradation products) is a suspected endocrine disruptor with the
potential of mimicking estrogen and causing reproductive issues
primarily to aquatic fauna.  Triton X-100 is a mixture of
octylphenol polyethoxylates (average EO of 10), although my LC-MS
analyses of it shows that it exists with a number of other
hydrophobes and also contains small amounts of the corresponding
fatty alcohol polyethoxylates and PEG ethoxymers as synthesis

Chris Stavroudis is largely responsible for bringing the potential
environmental and health concerns of alkylphenol ethoxylates to the
attention of conservators.  A related product, Synperonic N has been
used widely in Europe.  This is not exactly the same product as
Triton X-100--as was suggested in a previous post to the
DistList--as it is a nonylphenol ethoxylate and hence more like the
Tergitol NP series of surfactants here in the US.  Synperonic N has
been phased out in the EU, which has led to a recent search for
replacements there.  Chris suggested years ago that conservators in
the US consider replacing their Triton X-100 with Triton XL-80N,
another nonionic surfactant with similar cleaning effects to Triton
X-100, but one based on far less toxic fatty alcohol ethoxylates
(like the Brij type surfactants).  I have noticed that many
conservation labs do in fact now use XL-80N.  So, it is unfortunate
that Dow has now announced they will no longer manufacture this
surfactant due to its low demand by industry.  You have probably not
experienced any shortage of the product till now because they were
selling out remaining inventory and the shelf life of the detergent
is listed as being 2 years.

There is some debate over whether Triton X-100 is necessarily bad
for the limited quantities used in conservation.  One must keep in
mind that it is the degradation product and not the actual
surfactant that is most dangerous, and in the quantities that are
used by conservators there is little chance of it causing direct
danger if used properly.  A more serious risk is the damage it
causes to the eye if it is accidentally mishandled, and Triton
XL-80N is listed as being even more damaging in that type of
accident.  Furthermore, the small amounts used by conservators
likely pose little environmental consequence when disposed of

Still, if an alcohol ethoxylate can be found that fulfills the same
uses, then that would be ideal.  However, matching the HLB value of
Triton X-100 in a new surfactant does not insure that.  It is my
understanding that Triton XL-80N was not capable of making the same
solvent emulsions and cleaning gels that were possible with Triton
X-100, so even it was not a complete replacement.  Still, a good
place to start is with Vincent Daniels research on finding a
replacement for Synperonic N in Europe.  His research published in
JAIC (2004, vol 43, pp 55-73) tested many surfactants for use in
cleaning historic textiles.  The result was that Synperonic 91/6,
Hostapon T, Orvus WA Paste, and Imbentin C135/070 were passable. A
similar project to find a replacement for paintings conservation is
a student research project being considered by my institution.  My
original contact with Dow and the long explanation of why we were
using Triton XL-80N in the first place was met with the same
inexplicable answer--just use Triton X-100 (I'm assuming your
mention of Triton X-110 was a typo??).

Dr. Gregory Dale Smith
Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Conservation Science
Buffalo State College
Art Conservation Department
1300 Elmwood Ave., RH#230
Buffalo NY 14222
716-878-4646 office
716-878-5025 department
Fax: 716-878-5039

                  Conservation DistList Instance 19:11
                  Distributed: Friday, August 26, 2005
                       Message Id: cdl-19-11-004
Received on Wednesday, 17 August, 2005

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