What is benzoic acid?
Benzoic acid is a white crystalline organic compound that belongs to the carboxylic acid family and is widely used as a food preservative and in the manufacture of various cosmetics, dyes, plastics and insect repellents.
Benzoic acid was first described in the 16th century and is found in many plants. It makes up about 20% of benzoin gum, a plant resin. It was first synthesized around 1860 from compounds derived from coal tar. It is produced commercially by chemically reacting toluene (a hydrocarbon obtained from petroleum) with oxygen at temperatures around 200° C, using cobalt and manganese salts as catalysts. Pure benzoic acid melts at 122° C (252° F) and is very slightly soluble in water.
Derivatives of benzoic acid include sodium benzoate, a salt used as a food preservative; benzyl benzoate, an ester used as acaricide; and benzoyl peroxide, used to bleach flour and initiate chemical reactions to Preparation of certain plastics.
Is benzoic acid harmful to humans?
Benzoic acid is non-toxic and stable under ordinary conditions. Although occupational exposure limits have not been established, benzoic acid may still pose a health risk, so safe work practices should always be followed: wash hands thoroughly after handling. Use only in well-ventilated areas.