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CHEMINFO Record Number: 723
CCOHS Chemical Name: Phthalic anhydride molten liquid

1,2-Benzenedicarboxylic acid anhydride
1,2-Benzenedicarboxylic anhydride
Phthalic anhydride (non-specific name)
Phthalic acid anhydride
Anhydride phtalique (état vitreux)

Chemical Name French: Anhydride phtalique
Chemical Name Spanish: Anhídrido ftálico
CAS Registry Number: 85-44-9
UN/NA Number(s): 2214
RTECS Number(s): TI3150000
EU EINECS/ELINCS Number: 201-607-5
Chemical Family: Aromatic carboxylic acid anhydride / aromatic dicarboxylic acid anhydride / benzenedicarboxylic acid anhydride / phthalic acid isomer
Molecular Formula: C8-H4-O3
Structural Formula: -C(=O)-C6H4-C(=O)-O-


Appearance and Odour:
Colourless, hot molten liquid with a choking, acrid odour.(14)

Odour Threshold:
No reliable values are available. A minimum perceptible value of 0.053 ppm has been reported.(15)

Warning Properties:
NOT RELIABLE - no reliable odour threshold values have been reported.

Commercial phthalic anhydride generally has a purity of 99% or more. It may contain small amounts of maleic anhydride (up to 1%), phthalic acid, benzoic acid and traces of naphthoquinone as impurities.(14,16,17) It is stored, shipped and used as a solid or in molten liquid form. This CHEMINFO record is for phthalic anhydride in the molten liquid form which would be maintained at temperatures of 135 deg C or greater. It is stored and shipped in the molten state in insulated and heated trucks, insulated rail cars and tank trucks.(16) Refer to CHEMINFO 724 for information on solid phthalic anhydride.

Uses and Occurrences:
Phthalic anhydride is used mainly in the production of plasticizers (e.g. di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate), unsaturated polyesters and alkyd resins. Smaller uses include the manufacture of other chemicals like anthraquinone, phthalimide, phenolphthalein, isatoic anhydride and halogenated phthalic anhydrides, used as fire retardants; dyes and pigments; resin hardeners; and pharmaceutical intermediates.(14,17,18)


Colourless, hot molten liquid with a choking, acrid odour. Can burn if strongly heated. Irritating to the respiratory tract. May cause lung injury-- effects may be delayed. RESPIRATORY SENSITIZER. May cause severe allergic respiratory reaction. SKIN SENSITIZER. May cause severe allergic skin reaction. Can cause thermal burns due to the high temperature of the material.


Effects of Short-Term (Acute) Exposure

Molten phthalic anhydride produces extremely irritating vapours and fumes. The severity of effects depends on the airborne concentration of phthalic anhydride, the degree of contamination with corrosive maleic anhydride, and the duration of exposure. Symptoms would include runny nose, coughing, nose bleeds and irritation of the upper respiratory tract. In some cases, a potentially fatal accumulation of fluid (pulmonary edema) could result. The signs and symptoms of pulmonary edema, including shortness of breath, chest tightness and difficulty breathing, may be delayed several hours after exposure.
Some individuals can develop an allergic reaction, similar to asthma, to phthalic anhydride. Refer to "Effects of Long-term (Chronic) Exposure" below for information.

Skin Contact:
Molten phthalic anhydride is normally used in closed processes and skin contact would not be expected. However, if contact with the hot, molten liquid did occur, thermal burns would result. The severity of injury will depend upon the temperature of the material and the extent of contact. In serious cases, permanent scarring or death could result. The possibility of significant inhalation injury should also be considered following any skin contact.
Solid phthalic anhydride is not irritating to the skin, unless it is contaminated with more than 0.05% maleic anhydride. Maleic anhydride is corrosive and could cause tissue death and permanent scarring.
Phthalic anhydride can cause an allergic skin reaction in some individuals. Refer to "Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure" below for information.

Eye Contact:
Molten phthalic anhydride is normally used in closed processes and eye contact would not be expected. However, if contact with the hot molten liquid did occur, thermal burns would result. The severity of injury will depend upon the temperature of the material and the extent of contact. In serious cases, blindness or other permanent eye damage could result. The possibility of significant inhalation injury should also be considered following eye contact.
Solid phthalic anhydride is a moderate to severe eye irritant, unless it is contaminated with more than 0.05% maleic anhydride. Maleic anhydride is corrosive and could cause significant eye injury, including blindness.

Ingestion of the hot, molten liquid would not be expected.

Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure

Respiratory Sensitization:
Exposure to phthalic anhydride can cause allergic respiratory sensitization, based on human and animal evidence. The results of chemical factory surveys in several countries provide convincing evidence that phthalic anhydride can cause asthma and rhinitis (nose irritation) in a proportion of exposed people.(30)
Sensitized people can experience symptoms of bronchial asthma such as wheezing, difficult breathing, sneezing and runny or blocked nose at low airborne concentrations that have no effect on unsensitized people. Symptoms can develop immediately following exposure or hours later.
Respiratory sensitization to phthalic anhydride was confirmed by a bronchial challenge test in a person exposed to phthalic anhydride dust in his job. This individual had no previous history of asthma, but was a smoker.(2)
Phthalic anhydride-induced asthma was diagnosed in 12% (6/48) of current employees and 21% (15/70) of former employees in factories producing polyester resins. Only 4 of the 21 asthmatics had a previous history of allergies. A high percentage (15/21) were smokers. In one sensitized individual, exposure to 0.5 mg/m3 phthalic anhydride for 10 minutes was enough to produce a response. It is not known whether the presence of maleic anhydride, trimellitic anhydride or toluene diisocyanate in these same factories influenced the development of asthma.(3) Other researchers have also studied respiratory sensitization presumably in this same group of employees.(1)
No conclusions can be drawn from another case report of asthma, because it is not clear that phthalic anhydride caused the sensitization reaction and the person had a history of allergies. A known sensitizer was likely present (diglycidyl ether of bisphenol A (Araldite)) and air monitoring to confirm the presence of phthalic anhydride was not conducted.(4)

Skin Sensitization:
Repeated or prolonged skin contact may cause an allergic skin reaction in some individuals, based on animal evidence and limited human information. Once a person is sensitized to a material, contact with even a small amount causes outbreaks of dermatitis with symptoms such as skin redness, itching, rash and swelling. This can spread from the hands or arms to other parts of the body.
A few cases of skin sensitization reactions to phthalic anhydride have been reported in the international literature, however, details are not available in English. One reviewer has concluded that since so few cases have been reported, it is likely that only a very small proportion of exposed persons are affected.(1) Phthalic anhydride is a skin sensitizer in animals.


There is no human information available. Carcinogenic effects were not observed in rats or mice in one ingestion study.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has not evaluated the carcinogenicity of this chemical.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has designated this chemical as not classifiable as a human carcinogen (A4).

The US National Toxicology Program (NTP) has not listed this chemical in its report on carcinogens.

Teratogenicity and Embryotoxicity:
There is no human or animal information available.

Reproductive Toxicity:
There is no human information available. No conclusions can be drawn from one limited study in rats.

There is no information on effects in humans or from studies conducted with live animals. Mainly negative results have been obtained in tests using cultured mammalian cells. There is one unconfirmed report of a positive result (DNA damage) in cultured mammalian cells. Negative results have been obtained in bacteria tests.

Toxicologically Synergistic Materials:
There is no information available.

Potential for Accumulation:
Phthalic anhydride does not accumulate in the body. It is slowly converted to phthalic acid on contact with water and biological fluids. It has been shown that workers occupationally exposed to phthalic anhydride by inhalation, absorbed the substance with some being excreted in the urine as unconjugated phthalic acid. The half-life of phthalic anhydride/phthalic acid was shown to be about 14 hours. Urinary concentrations of the acid are related to exposure to the anhydride.(1)


Take proper precautions to ensure your own safety before attempting rescue; e.g. wear appropriate protective equipment and use the buddy system. Remove source of contamination or have victim move to fresh air. If breathing is difficult, oxygen may be beneficial if administered by trained personnel, preferably on a doctor's advice. DO NOT allow victim to move about unnecessarily. Symptoms of pulmonary edema can be delayed up to 48 hours after exposure. Immediately transport victim to an emergency care facility.

Skin Contact:
Avoid direct contact with this chemical. Wear chemical and thermal resistant protective gloves, if necessary. As quickly as possible, flush contaminated area with large volumes of lukewarm, gently flowing water until the material has cooled and solidified. Do not remove solidified material, contaminated clothing, shoes, or leather goods (e.g. watchbands, belts). Transport victim to an emergency care facility immediately. Discard contaminated clothing, shoes and leather goods.

Eye Contact:
Avoid direct contact with this chemical. Wear chemical and thermal resistant protective gloves. Immediately flush the contaminated eye(s) with large volumes of lukewarm, gently flowing water until the material has cooled and solidified, while holding the eyelid(s) open. Take care not to rinse contaminated water into the non-affected eye or onto the face. Quickly transport victim to an emergency care facility.

Not applicable to molten liquids.

First Aid Comments:
Provide general supportive measures (comfort, warmth, rest).
The possibility of significant inhalation injury should also be considered following skin or eye contact. Consult a doctor and/or the nearest Poison Control Centre for all exposures.
Some recommendations in the above sections may be considered medical acts in some jurisdictions. These recommendations should be reviewed with a doctor and appropriate delegation of authority obtained, as required.
All first aid procedures should be periodically reviewed by a doctor familiar with the material and its conditions of use in the workplace.


Flash Point:
152 deg C (305 deg F) (closed cup) (19)

Lower Flammable (Explosive) Limit (LFL/LEL):
1.7% (14,17,19)

Upper Flammable (Explosive) Limit (UFL/UEL):
10.5% (14,17,19)

Autoignition (Ignition) Temperature:
570 deg C (1058 deg F) (14,19,20); 584 deg C (1083 deg F) (14,17)

Sensitivity to Mechanical Impact:
Probably not sensitive. Stable material.

Sensitivity to Static Charge:
No information available.

Combustion and Thermal Decomposition Products:
Carbon monoxide, phthalic acid fumes and other toxic materials.(20) Incomplete combustion may also produce acrid smoke and irritating fumes.

Fire Hazard Summary:
Phthalic anhydride can burn if strongly heated. During a fire, irritating/toxic gases and fumes may be generated. Vapours or fumes from the molten material, at or above its flash point, may explode if ignited in a confined space. Pressure relief valves on tanks of hot molten liquid may become plugged with solid material and therefore, can malfunction. Flammable and potentially explosive hydrogen gas may be generated if phthalic acid, formed by the reaction of water and phthalic anhydride, contacts and corrodes iron or mild steel.

Extinguishing Media:
Carbon dioxide, dry chemical powder, alcohol foam, polymer foam , water spray or fog.(14,20) Steam has been recommended as an effective extinguishing agent for molten material fires in tanks.(14)

Fire Fighting Instructions:
Evacuate area and fight fire from a safe distance or a protected location. Approach fire from upwind to avoid toxic decomposition products.
Water or foam may cause frothing. The frothing may be violent and could endanger personnel close to the fire. However, a water spray or fog that is carefully applied to the surface of the burning material, preferably with a fine spray or fog nozzle, will cause frothing that will blanket and extinguish the fire. In addition, water spray or fog can be used to prevent dust formation and protect exposed material.
Closed containers may rupture violently when exposed to heat of fire. If possible, isolate materials not yet involved in the fire, and move containers from fire area if this can be done without risk, and protect personnel. Otherwise, fire-exposed containers or tanks should be cooled by application of hose streams. Application should begin as soon as possible and should concentrate on any unwetted portions of the container. Apply water from the side and from a safe distance until well after the fire is out. DO NOT get water into phthalic anhydride containers. If it is not possible to cool the containers, use unmanned monitor nozzles and immediately evacuate the area.
Water spray may be used to flush spills away from ignition sources. Solid streams of water may be ineffective and spread material. For a massive fire in a large area, use unmanned hose holder or monitor nozzles. If this is not possible, withdraw from fire area and allow fire to burn. Stay away from ends of tanks, but be aware that flying material from ruptured tanks may travel in any direction. Withdraw immediately in case of rising sound from venting safety device or any discolouration of tank due to fire.
Phthalic anhydride and its decomposition products may be hazardous to health. Do not enter without wearing specialized protective equipment suitable for the situation. Firefighter's normal protective equipment (Bunker Gear) will not provide adequate protection. Chemical resistant clothing (e.g. chemical splash suit) and positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus (MSHA/NIOSH approved or equivalent) may be necessary.


NFPA - Health: 2 - Intense or continued (but not chronic) exposure could cause temporary incapacitation or possible residual injury.
NFPA - Flammability: 1 - Must be preheated before ignition can occur.
NFPA - Instability: 0 - Normally stable, even under fire conditions, and not reactive with water.


Molecular Weight: 148.11

Conversion Factor:
1 ppm = 6.0 mg/m3; 1 mg/m3 = 0.17 ppm at 25 deg C (calculated)

Physical State: Solid
Melting Point: POINT OF SOLIDIFICATION: 131 deg C (268 deg F) (14,21)
Boiling Point: 284.5 deg C (544 deg F) (sublimes) (17,23); 295 deg C (563 deg F) (sublimes) (22)
Relative Density (Specific Gravity): 1.21 at 135 deg C (water=1) (14,17)
Solubility in Water: Slightly soluble (620-640 mg/100 g) at 20 deg C (slowly hydrolyses) (14,23)
Solubility in Other Liquids: Very soluble in acetone, tetrahydrofuran and pyridine; moderately soluble in ethyl acetate, methyl ethyl ketone and formic acid; slightly soluble in ethanol (reacts slowly), diethyl ether, benzene, carbon disulfide, carbon tetrachloride, cyclohexane and xylene.(1,16,17)
Coefficient of Oil/Water Distribution (Partition Coefficient): Not applicable (reacts)
pH Value: Not applicable. Reacts with water to form acidic solutions.
Viscosity-Dynamic: 1.19 mPa.s (1.19 centipoise) at 132 deg C (17)
Surface Tension: 35.5 mN/m (35.5 dynes/cm) at 155 deg C (18)
Vapour Density: 5.10 (air=1) (20)
Vapour Pressure: 0.9 kPa (6.75 mm Hg) at 135 deg C (17)
Saturation Vapour Concentration: Approximately 8900 ppm at 135 deg C (calculated)
Evaporation Rate: Not available
Critical Temperature: 537 deg C (999 deg F) (21)
Critical Pressure: 4762.7 kPa (47 atm.) (21)

Other Physical Properties:
TRIPLE POINT: 131 deg C (268 deg F) (17)


Normally stable. Reacts violently with water and water vapour to form phthalic acid and heat.(14)

Hazardous Polymerization:
Does not occur.

Incompatibility - Materials to Avoid:

NOTE: Chemical reactions that could result in a hazardous situation (e.g. generation of flammable or toxic chemicals, fire or detonation) are listed here. Many of these reactions can be done safely if specific control measures (e.g. cooling of the reaction) are in place. Although not intended to be complete, an overview of important reactions involving common chemicals is provided to assist in the development of safe work practices.

STRONG OXIDIZING AGENTS (e.g. perchlorates, peroxides, permanganates, sodium hypochlorite) - can react rapidly and violently with a the risk of fire and/or explosion.(14,20)
STRONG MINERAL OR ORGANIC ACIDS (e.g. hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, sulfuric acid, chlorosulfonic acid) - reaction can be sufficiently rapid and violent to cause an explosion.(14,20)
STRONG ALKALIS or CAUSTICS (e.g. sodium or potassium hydroxide) or BASES (e.g. ethylene diamine) - may react violently with spattering, accompanied by a temperature and pressure rise.(14,20)
WATER - reacts violently with water. Forms phthalic acid while releasing heat, steam, frothing and vapour.(14,24)
WATER and METALS (e.g. iron) - may form pyrophoric phthalic acid salts. Reaction of these iron salts with naphthoquinones (impurities in phthalic anhydride) form unstable materials, which can explode.(25)
STRONG REDUCING AGENTS (e.g. phosphorus, tin (II) chloride, metal hydrides) - may react vigorously or violently. Increased risk of fire.(20)
COPPER(II)OXIDE or SODIUM NITRITE - may explode violently on heating.(14,25)
NITRIC ACID and SULFURIC ACID - addition of fuming nitric acid to phthalic anhydride dissolved in sulfuric acid at 80-100 deg C may result in the formation of potentially explosive substances.(14,19,25)

Hazardous Decomposition Products:
Phthalic acid

Conditions to Avoid:
Heat, sparks, other ignition sources, and water or moisture.

Corrosivity to Metals:
Dry phthalic anhydride (with or without maleic anhydride contamination) is not corrosive to cast iron, steel, stainless steel, nickel and its alloys and aluminum.(14,26) In the presence of water, phthalic anhydride is corrosive to ordinary iron and mild steel, because phthalic acid, and possibly small amounts of maleic acid, are formed.(14) Organic acids are generally not corrosive to types 304 and 316 stainless steels.(27)

Stability and Reactivity Comments:
Phthalic anhydride may attack some forms of plastics, rubber and coatings.(14)


All toxicity information is for solid phthalic anhydride.

LC50 (male rat): greater than 52.5 mg/m3 (4- hour exposure); cited as greater than 0.21 mg/L (1-hour exposure) (dust) (0/6 died) (6)

LD50 (oral, rat): approximately 2000 mg/kg (1, unconfirmed)
LD50 (oral, male rat): 4020 mg/kg (6)
LD50 (oral, mouse): 1500 mg/kg (5, unconfirmed)

LD50 (dermal, rabbit): greater than 10000 mg/kg (0/6 died) (6)

Eye Irritation:

Solid phthalic anhydride is a moderate to severe eye irritant in rabbits.(6-8)

Skin Irritation:

Solid phthalic anhydride caused no to mild skin irritation in rabbits.(6-8)

Effects of Short-Term (Acute) Exposure:

Severe irritant effects on the lung (bleeding, increased cell growth and acute and chronic inflammation) have been observed in rats following inhalation of solid phthalic anhydride.(1, unconfirmed)

Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure:

Inflammation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, often with secondary pneumonia, was observed in guinea pigs following intermittent inhalation exposure to solid phthalic anhydride over 8 months.(7, unconfirmed) Details regarding reversibility of the observed effects are not available.

No harmful effects have been observed in animals fed relatively high doses (up to 4900 mg/kg for 2 years) of solid phthalic anhydride.(9)

Skin Sensitization:
Solid phthalic anhydride has produced skin sensitization in animals.(10,11)

Respiratory Sensitization:
Evidence of respiratory sensitization has been observed in guinea pigs exposed to solid phthalic anhydride.(10,12)

No carcinogenic effects were observed in mice and rats fed high doses of solid phthalic anhydride for up to 105 weeks.(9)

Reproductive Toxicity:
No conclusions can be drawn from the one available study for solid phthalic anhydride due to insufficient information.(7, unconfirmed)


Selected Bibliography:
(1) Ridgway, P., et al., Health and Safety Executive. Acid anhydrides: criteria document for an occupational exposure limit. HSE Books, 1996
(2) Maccia, C.A., et al. In vitro demonstration of specific IgE in phthalic anhydride hypersensitivity. American Review of Respiratory Disease. Vol. 113, no. 5 (May 1976). p. 701-704
(3) Wernfors, M., et al. Phthalic anhydride-induced occupational asthma. International Archives of Allergy and Applied Immunology. Vol. 79, no. 1 (Jan. 1986). p. 77-82
(4) Ward, M.J. et al. Asthma due to grinding epoxy resin cured with phthalic anhydride. Clinical Allergy. Vol. 12 (1982). p. 165-168
(5) Izmerov, N.F., et al. Toxicometric parameters of industrial toxic chemicals under single exposure. United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Centre of International Projects, GKNT, 1982
(6) Anonymous. Phthalic anhydride. (Data sheet No. 13-4/70). Industrial-Test Laboratories, Inc., Northbrook, Illinois, 1970
(7) Dutch expert committee for occupational standards. Health-based recommended occupational exposure limit for phthalic anhydride. Directorate- General of Labour, the Netherlands, June 1989
(8) Gad, S.C., et al. Correlation of ocular and dermal irritancy of industrial chemicals. Journal of Toxicology-Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology. Vol. 5, no. 3 (Sept. 1986). p. 195-213
(9) Kluwe, W.M., et al. Carcinogenicity testing of phthalate esters and related compounds by the National Toxicology Program and the National Cancer Institute. Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 45 (Nov. 1982). p. 129-133
(10) Duyeva, L.A., et al. Experimental assessment of the sensitizing and irritating action of phthalate plasticizers. Gigiena Truda i Professional'nye Zabolevaniya. Vol. 13, no. 10 (1969). p. 17-19. (English translation: NIOSHTIC Control Number: 00033611)
(11) Basketter, D.A., et al. Comparison of the local lymph node assay with the guinea-pig maximization test for the detection of a range of contact allergens. Food and Chemical Toxicology. Vol. 30, no. 1 (Jan. 1992). p. 65-69
(12) Sarlo, K., et al. Induction of Type I hypersensitivity in guinea pigs after inhalation of phthalic anhydride. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Vol. 94, no. 4 (Oct. 1994). p. 747-756
(13) RTECS record for phthalic anhydride. Last updated: 199704
(14) Emergency action guide for phthalic anhydride. Association of American Railroads, Oct. 1993
(15) Odor thresholds for chemicals with established occupational health standards. American Industrial Hygiene Association, 1989. p. 27, 73
(16) Towae, F.K., et al. Phthalic acid and derivatives. In: Ullmann's encyclopedia of industrial chemistry. 5th completely revised ed. Vol. A 20. VCH Verlagsgesellschaft, 1992. p. 181-190, 198-199
(17) Park, C-H, et al. Phthalic acids and other benzenepolycarboxylic acids. In: Kirk-Othmer encyclopedia of chemical technology. 4th ed. Vol. 18. John Wiley and Sons, 1996. p. 991-1006
(18) HSDB record for phthalic anhydride. Last revision date: 97/05/01
(19) Fire protection guide to hazardous materials. 13th ed. Edited by A.B. Spencer, et al. National Fire Protection Association, 2002. NFPA 325; NFPA 49; NFPA 491
(20) The Sigma-Aldrich library of chemical safety data. Ed. II. Vol. 2. Sigma-Aldrich Corporation, 1988
(21) Dean, J.A. Lange's handbook of chemistry. 14th ed. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1992. p. 1.171, 6.144
(22) Weast, R.C., ed. Handbook of chemistry and physics. 66th ed. CRC Press, 1985-1986
(23) Verschueren, K. Handbook of environmental data on organic chemicals. 3rd ed. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1996
(24) NIOSH pocket guide to chemical hazards. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, June 1997
(25) Urben, P.G., ed. Bretherick's handbook of reactive chemical hazards. 5th ed. Vol. 1. Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd., 1995. p. 935-936
(26) Corrosion data survey: metals section. 6th ed. National Association of Corrosion Engineers, 1985. p. 98-1 to 99-1, 98-2 to 99-2
(27) Elder, G.B. Materials of construction for organic acids. In: Process industries corrosion: the theory and practice. Edited by B.J. Moniz, et al. National Association of Corrosion Engineers, 1986. p. 287-296
(28) Forsberg, K., et al. Quick selection guide to chemical protective clothing. 4th ed. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 2002
(29) European Communities. Commission Directive 98/73/EC. Sept. 18, 1998
(30) Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Asthmagen? Critical assessments of the evidence for agents implicated in occupational asthma. HSE Books, 1997 with amendments 1998, 2001

Information on chemicals reviewed in the CHEMINFO database is drawn from a number of publicly available sources. A list of general references used to compile CHEMINFO records is available in the database Help.

Review/Preparation Date: 1998-06-22

Revision Indicators:
TLV-TWA 2000-06-01
TLV Comments 2000-06-01
EU Risk 1999-12-01
EU Safety 1999-12-01
EU Comments 1999-12-01
TDG 2002-05-29
NFPA (health) 2003-04-19
PEL-TWA final 2003-12-19
PEL transitional comments 2003-12-19
TLV basis 2004-01-04
Resistance of materials for PPE 2004-04-06
EU classification 2005-02-06
Bibliography 2006-05-18
Long-term exposure 2006-05-18

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