1,3-Dinitrobenzene and 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene are synthetic substances that are used in explosives. Both substances are yellow crystal-like solids at room temperature. They may exist in air in very small amounts as dust or a vapor, and can dissolve in certain liquids. If either substance is put under very high heat, it will explode. They have no odor or taste.



Structural diagrams: National Institutes of Health

Fate & Transport

Both compounds are likely to break down in air, water, and soil very slowly. Both compounds are slightly soluble in water. 1,3-Dinitrobenzene evaporates slowly from water; 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene does not evaporate from water. Neither compound sticks to soil strongly, so both can move through soil into groundwater. These compounds are not likely to build up in fish or people.

Exposure Pathways

If you live or work near a military ammunitions plant or other chemical manufacturer, you may be exposed to these compounds by drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food, breathing contaminated air, or touching or eating contaminated soil.

Health Effects

Waste discharges from military ammunitions plants or other chemical manufacturers are the primary sources for release of both compounds to air, water, and soil.

1,3-Dinitrobenzene and 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene are suspected to cause similar health effects. Exposure to high concentrations of 1,3-dinitrobenzene can reduce the ability of blood to carry oxygen and can cause your skin to become bluish in color.

If you are exposed to 1,3-dinitrobenzene for a long time, you can develop a reduction (or loss) in the number of red blood cells (anemia). Other symptoms of 1,3-dinitrobenzene exposure include headache, nausea, and dizziness.

We do not know if there are any long-term health effects from exposure to 1,3-dinitrobenzene or 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene. We also do not know if these chemicals cause birth defects in humans.

Results of studies in animals show that effects of 1,3-dinitrobenzene and 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene on the blood are similar to the effects seen in people. Results from animal studies also show some other effects of 1,3-dinitrobenzene exposure, such as behavioral changes and male reproductive system damage.

We do not know if these compounds can cause birth defects in animals. We do not know if the effects seen in animals could also occur in people.

The EPA has determined that these compounds are not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity in humans. This is because the ability of these compounds to produce cancer has not been studied in humans or animals.

There is no routine medical test to show if you have been exposed to 1,3-dinitrobenzene or 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene. Tests have been used to detect 1,3-dinitrobenzene and its breakdown products in blood and urine of exposed animals, but these tests have not been used for people.

Information excerpted from:

Toxicological Profile for 1,3-Dinitrobenzene and 1,3,5-Trinitrobenzene

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services