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Triethanoloamine is a colorless viscous liquid that smells like that of ammonia. It is abbreviated as either TEA or TEOA in order to distinguish it from triethylamine. Like the other amines, this organic compound has a strong base because of the lone pair of electrons that are found on the atom of nitrogen. It helps in the formation of emulsion by essentially reducing surface tension of substances being emulsified in order for the oil-soluble and water-soluble substances to be blended accordingly.

History and Origin

Ethanolamines became commercially available in the beginning of 1930, and made a steady growth in commercial importance after the year 1945, due to its large scale ethylene oxide production. In the middle of the 1970s, possible economical production of colorless and pure Ethanolamines was realized. On the industrial scale, Ethanolamines are produced by the reaction of ethylene oxide and excess ammonia. The reaction is slow, and accelerated by water.

The United States began producing Triethanoloamine during the early 1960s. It was also produced in India, France, China, Mexico, Italy, The Russian Federation, Belgium, Australia, Brazil, Iran, The Czech Republic, Spain, The United Kingdom, and in Japan. Today, the estimated worldwide production is between 100,000 to 500,000 tons yearly.

Ancient Uses

Triethanoloamine is utilized as a good corrosion deterrence in metal-cutting fluids, a curing element for rubber polymers and epoxy, and as a compound in controlling freshwater algae on ponds and in lakes, and it is also used as a neutralizing agent in the formulations of most agricultural herbicides.

Modern Uses

Triethanoloamine is being used mostly for beauty products such as in mascara, eyeliners, eye shadows, make-up bases, and blushes. In addition, most commonly used hair care products, fragrances, hair dyes, shaving products, wave sets, sun blockers, skin cleansers and other skin and hair care products also utilize Triethanoloamine as one of their main operating ingredients. In pharmaceutical products, it is an active ingredient in eardrops for the treatment of impacted earwax.

Triethanoloamine is included on the list of indirect food additives provided by the FDA. As such, it can be used in many adhesives that are in contact with many food products, and it is useful as an agent for peeling or washing a variety of vegetables and fruits.

Triethanoloamine as a surfactant and an emulsifier is a usual ingredient for use in both consumer and industrial product formulations. Among these products are dishwashing liquids, liquid laundry detergents, cleansers, polishes, hand sanitizers, printing inks, paints, and also metalworking fluids.

In the cement production, Triethanoloamine is being used as an organic additive in the cement clinker grinding process. It helps the process in the prevention of coating and agglomeration of the powder in the balls’ surface and the mill wall. The other uses of TEA are being a forerunner to other compounds, laboratory essentials, and also used in amateur photography.

Side Effects

Triethanoloamine has been proven safe for use in both personal care products and in cosmetic products that are prepared for brief usage to be followed by complete rinsing from the skin’s surface. With products that are intended for longer skin exposure, the Triethanoloamine concentration should not be over five-percent. It should not be utilized with products having N-nitrosating agents in order to avoid formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. CIR experts declare TEA can cause mild eye and skin irritations due to increase in concentration.

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