It’s the name of a compound used as a catalyst for chemical synthesis.

What is it?

This chemical compound is an organic base industrially used in organic synthesis. Triethylamine is present as xenobiotic compounds in a few living organisms.

One of such organisms is a plant called Hawthorn or Thornapple, which is native to Eurasia but people cultivate many species of this small tree in North America.

The flowers of this plant secrete Triethylamine, which gives them a complicated scent that some people describe as the smell of death, while others think it feels like a pheromone.

This last comparison may occur because of very similar compounds being present in semen and vaginal secretions.

Other flowers of the Rosaceae family also secrete this compound; one example would be the Cherry Blossoms.

However, one odd source of Triethylamine is the decomposition of plant and animal products, as well as some infections.

In fact, when a dead human body starts to decay, it produces Triethylamine.

This chemical compound also occurs naturally in some foods as a metabolic product. In fact, several industries use it, in the form of a liquid, as a food additive.

More often than not, ingesting food with naturally occurring Triethylamine will have no negative repercussion on people’s health.

However, the artificially made versions of this compound, in the form of gas emissions and wastewater, could have adverse effects on people.

Still, many use Triethylamine as an intermediate in the production of several chemicals, including pharmaceutic products.

Effects on human beings

Continous exposure to Triethylamine could lead to adverse health issues such as asthma and other similar conditions. In other cases, this chemical could cause visual disturbances.

Experts haven’t conducted a full study about the metabolism of Triethylamine, which is why several researchers often reach conclusions about this matter by relying on other similar studies.

Such experts base their findings on the extensive research conducted on Trimethylamine, another organic compound very similar to Triethylamine.

In fact, Trimethylamine even gives a somewhat similar scent, typically associated with dead or rotten fish.

That was the trend until one group of researchers from the Lund University of Sweden conducted a small study.

Five volunteers, all healthy males, got exposed to Triethylamine by inhalation, with a fixed amount meant to match the general environment in the industry.

Each volunteer got exposed on different occasions to Triethylamine vapor for about 8 hours. However, with the other individuals, researchers tested different concentrations with a variable time of exposure.

Researchers took samples of blood, urine, and with some volunteers, they sampled their expiratory air during the final 10 minutes of each period of exposure.

They collected expired air from all five individuals to determine their respiratory rate.

During the experiment, researches registered some visual disturbances such as hazy or blurred vision after getting exposed to 20 mg/m3 of Triethylamine for about 8 hours.

However, several factors play a significant role in the development of such issues, given most of this substance is excreted in the urine.

For example, physical work increases the absorption of the Triethylamine vapor.

Higher concentrations of this chemical in the human body could result in dizziness, headache, difficulty in breathing, nausea, general weakness, and a sore throat.

Constant exposure of the skin to Triethylamine can cause redness, skin burns, and pain or discomfort.


Living human beings can also produce compounds similar to Triethylamine under specific circumstances.

Some people suffer from a disorder called Trimethylaminuria, also known as Fish Odor Syndrome, which consists of a genetic condition that in which the sufferers releases Trimethylamine through their bodily fluids.

The patients’ body odor, breath, urine, or all three smell like rotten fish. That occurs due to people with this disorder being unable to metabolize Trimethylamine from food.

It is a rare condition with no known cure. But, several treatments are available to alleviate the symptoms.

Animals such as cows and chickens can develop this disease as well, and the result would be foul-smelling eggs and milk.

First Aid in cases of exposure to Triethylamine

When someone displays symptoms of Triethylamine poisoning, then people should take the sufferer to take a breath of fresh air.

They should sit in and rest in a half-upright position. And depending on the severity of the case, people may need artificial respiration.

The sufferers should also remove contaminated clothes and rinse their skin with plenty of water or shower.

However, if the symptoms persist, people should seek medical attention as soon as possible.