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Diss Factsheets

Environmental fate & pathways

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Administrative data

Description of key information

Unstable when diluted in water and damp air

Additional information

Solid sodium ethyl xanthate is hygroscopic, absorbing moisture decomposes, releasing very toxic and extremely flammable carbon disulfide. Decomposition rate increases with increase in temperature and decrease pH.


In acidic media, pH <1.5, decomposition of xanthates runs very fast ( logk0= 7.5), illustrated by the reaction equation:


ROC(S)SNa + HA  = ROH + CS2 + NaA


Rate constant for acid-catalyzed decomposition of potassium ethyl xanthate k1= 194 /mol min in the presence of H3O+at 250C.


In aqueous solution, in neutral and alkaline media, xanthates decompose by the hydrolytic way:

6ROC(S)SNa  +  H2O   =   6ROH  +  Na2CO3  +  3CS2  +  2CS3Na2


Further hydrolysis of sodium trithiocarbonate to sodium carbonate and hydrogen sulfide and carbon disulfide to carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide may occur.


Decomposition of xanthates depends on temperature and NaOH concentration:


Simultaneous reactions leading to decomposition of xanthate/or dixanthate species to alcohol and carbon disulfide were detected.


Solid xanthates decompose exposed to moisture in air, releasing carbon disulfide. Hydrolysis is a significant factor in determination the environmental fate of xanthates. In neutral or mildly alkaline water solution, sodium ethyl xanthate decomposes to ethyl alcohol, carbon disulfide, sodium carbonate and sodium trihiocarbonate. (Full Public Report Sodium Ethyl Xanthate Priority Existing Chemical No. 5 May 1995Australian Government Publishing Service Canberra)