What is TBA?

Tert-butyl alcohol is the simplest tertiary alcohol, with a formula of (CH₃)₃COH. It is one of the four isomers of butanol. tert-Butyl alcohol is a colorless solid, which melts near room temperature and has a camphor-like odor.


Solvent, ethanol denaturant, paint remover ingredient, and gasoline octane booster and oxygenate. It is a chemical intermediate used to produce MTBE and ETBE by reaction with methanol and ethanol, and TBHP by reaction with hydrogen peroxide. It is also used in making flavors and perfumes, as a solvent for pharmaceuticals, a paint remover, and as an additive in unleaded gasoline.

Sources & Potential Exposure

Tert-butyl alcohol is one of the most widely distributed organic contaminants in groundwater at gasoline spill sites. TBA can irritate the nose, throat, and lungs when inhaled as well as the skin and eyes when absorbed via skin. It can also cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea as well as drowsiness, confusion, and passing out. TBA may affect the liver and kidneys. 

Federal Regulations

While the EPA does not have a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for TBA in drinking water, OSHA, the EPA, and many other environmental protection organizations cite it on the Right to Know Hazardous Substance List. OSHA and ACGIH both list the threshold limit value at 100 ppm over an 8-hour work shift. 

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