Metaldehyde, a detailed overview

What is metaldehyde used for?

Metaldehyde is an organic chemical compound with the formula C8H16O4. It is commonly used as a pesticide against snails and other gastropods. The rising demand for metaldehyde as agrochemical and the increasing demand for high-volume horticulture crops have raised the production of metaldehyde across the globe. The global market size is expected to reach $727.8 million by end of the year 2023 from $587.8 million in 2018, growing at a CAGR of 4.4%. 

In addition to being a popular pesticide, metaldehyde is primarily a neurotoxicant. Up on acute exposure in several mammals, metaldehyde is found to produce CNS (central nervous system) depression, convulsions, and violent muscular contractions.

Uses of metaldehyde:

  • Used as a popular pesticide
  • A widely used agrochemical
  • Used as a camping fuel
  • Forms an active component in molluscicides used to control slugs, snails, and other gastropods.

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Physical and Chemical Properties

Metaldehyde is a highly flammable compound that ignites giving off irritating fumes. It causes irritation of eyes and skin, and also proven to be toxic when ingested. The physical properties of metaldehyde include:

AppearanceWhite-colored crystalline solid
OdorMenthol-like odor
IUPAC Name2,4,6,8-tetramethyl-1,3,5,7-tetroxocane
Molar mass176.212 g/mol
Density1.27 g/cm3
Melting point246 °C
Boiling pointSublimes at 110 to 120 °C
SolubilityInsoluble in water, acetone, acetic acid, and carbon disulfide. Soluble in toluene at 530 mg/L at 20 °C, and in methanol 1730 mg/L at 20 °C

Chemical properties


Depolymerization occurs slowly on heating, however, the process rapidly increases above 80oC. Above 80o C it beings to depolymerize to acetaldehyde, the process completes above 200o C.

Heat of Combustion

The heat of combustion of metaldehyde is 3370 kJ/mol.

Manufacturers of metaldehyde

The increasing demand for high-value horticulture crops has offered growth opportunities for metaldehyde in emerging countries of Asia and South America. Furthermore, the on-going COVID-19 pandemic has hit the demand/supply of metaldehyde along with other chemicals. Except the medical supplies and other pharmaceutical products, the production of a wide range of chemicals were greatly impacted. But this trend will soon change; with the pandemic slowly being in control, the chemical industry will soon function at full swing. By 2023, the global metaldehyde market is expected to reach the previously estimated $727.8 million.

Key manufacturers of metaldehyde

  • Lonza
  • Xuzhou Nuote
  • Xuzhou Shennong
  • Haimen Zhaofeng

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Is metaldehyde harmful to people or pets?

Metaldehyde is a widely used molluscicide to produce high-quality crops and vegetables. However, it is proven to be toxic to human beings, and other terrestrial mammals and birds. In birds, the minimum lethal dose of metaldehyde is 500 mg per kilogram body weight; but it is found to be ineffective in case of arthropods and earthworms. It is found out that a very little amount of metaldehyde poisoning can cause death in case birds, pets, and other animals.

Metaldehyde is toxic to humans as well. Ingestion of metaldehyde converts it into acetaldehyde, which is a toxic chemical. Acetaldehyde causes muscle tremors, ataxia, and seizures. It often leads to multiple organ failure and even death. In case of ingestion, it is advised to get medical help immediately.

Safety and Hazards of metaldehyde

There are no occupational exposure limits established for metaldehyde; however, the chemical is listed as a hazardous compound and requires the individual to wear necessary PPE and follow safe practices while working with it. One should obtain all the chemical information and special instructions before using the chemical. As metaldehyde is toxic to humans, terrestrial animals, and aquatic animals, it is recommended to dispose of the waste in a highly secured manner.

Potential health risks

Eyes: Causes irritation of eyes

Skin: Causes skin irritation

Igestion: Harmful if swallowed

Inhalation: Causes irritation of the respiratory tract

First-aid measures

Eye contact: In case of the chemical exposure to the eyes, rinse the eyes with plenty of cold water and seek medical help immediately.

Skin contact: Remove any cloth in the exposed area of the skin and wash it with plenty of cold water for at least 15 minutes. Immediately visit a doctor for further advice.

Ingestion: Since metaldehyde is toxic, call the doctor immediately without any delay. Do not induce vomiting.

Inhalation: In case of having been inhaled the fumes of metaldehyde, get some fresh air immediately. If required, visit a doctor. In case the individual is not breathing, give artificial respiration and take the person to hospital without any further delay. 

Metaldehyde is a flammable and toxic substance; hence, it is recommended to handle it with utmost care.

Where to buy metaldehyde?

Metaldehyde can be purchased from any local chemical supplier, manufacturer, or third-party dealer in India. This is a long-followed trend in the chemical industry and still dominates the chemical procurement process in the Indian chemical market. Though the wave of digitization has taken the world by a storm, the process of digitization in still at a nascent stage in India; but with the emerging digital platforms for chemical sourcing, the trend is slowly changing towards digitization even in the Indian market., India’s first and largest online chemical bazaar, is one such platform that has revolutionized the way people buy/sell chemicals. It has helped the chemical buyers and sellers immensely to buy/sell chemicals with utmost ease.

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