The Ecological Effects of Trichloracetic Acid (TCAA) in the Environment

Trichloroacetic acid (TCAA) is a member of the family of compounds known as chloroacetic acids, which includes mono-, di- and trichloroacetic acid. The significant property these compounds share is that they are all phytotoxic. TCAA once was widely used as a potent herbicide. However, long after TCAAs use as a herbicide was discontinued, its presence is still detected in the environment in various compartments. Methods for quantifying TCAA in aqueous and solid samples are summarized. Concentrations in various environmental compartments are presented with a discussion of the possible information TCAA through natural processes. Concentrations of TCAA found to be toxic to aquatic and terrestrial organisms in laboratory and field studies were compiled and used to estimate risk quotients for soil and surface waters. TCAA levels in most water bodies not directly affected by point sources appear to be well below toxicity levels for the most sensitive aquatic organisms. Given the phytotoxicity of TCAA, aquatic plants and phytoplankton would be the aquatic species to monitor for potential effects. Given the concentrations of TCAA measured in various soils, there appears to be a risk to terrestrial organisms. Soil uptake of TCAA by plants has been shown to be rapid. Also, combined uptake of TCAA from soil and directly from the atmosphere has been shown. Therefore, risk quotients derived from soil exposure may underestimate the risk TCAA poses to plants. Moreover, TCE and TCA have been shown to be taken up by plants and converted to TCAA, thus leading to an additional exposure route. Mono- and di-chloroacetic acids can co-occur with TCAA in the atmosphere and soil and are more phytotoxic than TCAA. The cumulative effects of TCAA and compounds with similar toxic effects found in air and soil must be considered in subsequent terrestrial ecosystem risk assessment.


Lewis, T E., T. F. WOLFINGER, AND M. L. BARTA. The Ecological Effects of Trichloracetic Acid (TCAA) in the Environment. ENVIRONMENT INTERNATIONAL. Elsevier Science Ltd, New York, NY, 30:1119-1150, (2004).