The Risk Assessment Information System

Toxicity Profiles


NOTE: Although the toxicity values presented in these toxicity profiles were correct at the time they were produced, these values are subject to change. Users should always refer to the Toxicity Value Database for the current toxicity values.


Prepared by: Mary Lou Daugherty, M.S., Chemical Hazard Evaluation and Communication, Group, Biomedical and Environmental Information Analysis Section, Health and Safety, Research Division, *.

Prepared for: Oak Ridge Reservation Environmental Restoration Program.

*Managed by Martin Marietta Energy Systems, Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC05-84OR21400.

Trinitrophenylmethylnitramine (tetryl) is a monoclinic crystalline solid that is used as a intermediary detonating agent for less sensitive high explosives and as a booster charge in certain military munitions. Although contact with tetryl-laden dust is the primary source of human occupational exposure, nonoccupational exposure can potentially occur through contact with contaminated surface waters, soils, sediments and ground water.

Human studies that describe the rate of tetryl absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion were not identified in the available literature. A study conducted using rabbits indicates that tetryl is poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and slowly metabolized (Zambrano and Mandovano, 1956). Studies that identified the distribution of tetryl following absorption and elimination other than in the urine were not identified. Another study determined that gavage treatment of male rabbits with tetryl for 9 months induced renal and hepatic degenerative effects (Fati and Daniele, 1965). On the basis of these effects, a lowest-observed-adverse-effect-level (LOAEL) of 125 mg/kg/day for tetryl was derived. Based on the LOAEL, a subchronic reference dose (RfDs) of 100 µg/kg and a chronic reference dose (RfD) of 10 µg/kg were calculated. Data are presently insufficient to derive a reference concentration (RfC) for tetryl.

The primary target organ of tetryl toxicity is the skin. Human occupational exposure to tetryl induces a compound-related dermatitis. The dermatitis is characterized by erythema, particularly on the neck, chest, back and the inside surface of the forearms. The erythema can lead to localized desquamation in affected areas. There is some indication that the dermatitis on occasion may involve an allergic response. Other target organs of tetryl toxicity include the upper respiratory tract, kidney, liver and central nervous system. Female workers at munition facilities have developed menstrual disorders following exposure to tetryl (Cripps, 1917).

No information is available concerning the developmental toxicity of tetryl to humans or animals. No suitable cancer bioassays or epidemiological studies are available to assess the carcinogenicity of tetryl. Therefore, U.S. EPA (1990) has placed tetryl in weight-of-evidence group D, not classifiable to human carcinogenicity.

Retrieve Toxicity Profiles Formal Version

Last Updated 2/13/98

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