The Environmental Impact of 6PPD-Quinone: An In-Depth Look at Tyres, Shredded Tyres, Road Tailings, Landfills, and Leachate

Introduction to 6PPD-Quinone

6PPD-quinone, a derivative of the chemical compound N-(1,3-Dimethylbutyl)-N’-phenyl-p-phenylenediamine (6PPD), has come under increasing scrutiny for its environmental impact. This compound is primarily used in the manufacturing of tyres, where it serves as an antiozonant—a substance that prevents the degradation of rubber by ozone. The introduction of 6PPD into tyres dates back several decades, with its widespread adoption due to its effectiveness in prolonging tyre life and enhancing safety. However, the environmental implications of 6PPD-quinone, particularly in relation to tyre wear particles, road tailings, shredded tyres in landfills, and leachate, are of growing concern.

In this post, we provide a critical overview of the generation, environmental distribution, bioavailability, and potential toxicity of 6-PPDQ. The transformation pathways from 6-PPD to 6-PPDQ include the N-1,3-dimethylbutyl-N-phenyl quinone diamine (QDI), intermediate phenol, and semiquinone radical pathways. 6-PPDQ has been frequently detected in water, dust, air particles, soil, and sediments, indicating its large-scale and potentially global pollution trend. 6-PPDQ is bioavailable to both aquatic animals and mammals and acute exposure to 6-PPDQ can be lethal to some organisms. Exposure to 6-PPDQ at environmentally relevant concentrations could induce several types of toxicity, including neurotoxicity, intestinal toxicity, and reproductive toxicity.

The Role of 6PPD in Tyres

Tyres are subjected to a variety of environmental stresses, including exposure to ozone, which can cause cracking and deterioration. To combat this, manufacturers incorporate 6PPD, which reacts with ozone to form 6PPD-quinone, thereby protecting the rubber. This reaction is crucial for extending the lifespan of tyres, making them safer and more durable for prolonged use. The use of 6PPD in tyres began in the mid-20th century, and it quickly became a standard additive due to its superior performance compared to previous antioxidants and antiozonants.

Environmental Hazards of 6PPD-Quinone

Despite its benefits for tyre longevity, 6PPD-quinone poses significant environmental risks. As tyres wear down, particles containing 6PPD-quinone are released into the environment. These particles can accumulate in various settings, including road tailings, landfills, and waterways, leading to potential ecological and health hazards.

Road Tailings and Shredded Tyres

Road tailings, the accumulation of debris and particulate matter from road surfaces, often contain significant amounts of tyre-derived particles. These particles include 6PPD-quinone, which can be transported by runoff into nearby soil and water bodies. Similarly, shredded tyres used in various applications, such as civil engineering projects or as landfill cover, can leach 6PPD-quinone into the environment. In landfill sites, the degradation of shredded tyres under anaerobic conditions can lead to the release of this compound into leachate, the liquid that drains from landfills.

Leachate and Water Contamination

Leachate containing 6PPD-quinone poses a severe threat to groundwater and surface water quality. Once in the water system, 6PPD-quinone can be toxic to aquatic life. Research has shown that even low concentrations of this compound can be lethal to certain fish species, highlighting the potential for significant ecological disruption. In the UK, monitoring and managing leachate from landfills is a critical aspect of environmental protection, and the presence of 6PPD-quinone adds another layer of complexity to this task.

Other Uses of 6PPD

While 6PPD is primarily used in the tyre industry, it has other applications as well. These include its use as an antioxidant in the production of various rubber products, such as belts, hoses, and gaskets. Additionally, 6PPD can be found in some lubricants and plastics, where it serves to protect against oxidative degradation. Despite these additional uses, the environmental focus remains largely on its role in tyres due to the significant quantities used and the widespread dispersion of tyre particles in the environment.

Analytical Testing for 6PPD-Quinone

Detecting and quantifying 6PPD-quinone in environmental samples requires sophisticated analytical techniques. Laboratories typically employ a suite of methods to ensure accurate measurement, including liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). These techniques allow for the separation, identification, and quantification of 6PPD-quinone, even at trace levels.

Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS)

LC-MS is a preferred method for analysing 6PPD-quinone due to its high sensitivity and specificity. In this process, the sample is first separated by liquid chromatography, which isolates 6PPD-quinone from other compounds. The isolated compound is then introduced into a mass spectrometer, where it is ionised and detected based on its mass-to-charge ratio. This technique is particularly effective for complex environmental samples, such as water or soil, where multiple contaminants may be present.

High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)

HPLC is another common method used in the analysis of 6PPD-quinone. This technique also relies on the separation of compounds within a sample but uses a high-pressure liquid solvent to achieve separation. HPLC is often used in conjunction with UV or fluorescence detection to quantify 6PPD-quinone. While it may not be as sensitive as LC-MS, HPLC is a robust and reliable method for routine analysis.

Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)

GC-MS is less commonly used for 6PPD-quinone due to the compound’s thermal instability. However, for certain types of samples, such as those containing volatile organic compounds, GC-MS can be a valuable tool. This technique involves vaporising the sample and separating it via gas chromatography before detecting it with a mass spectrometer. Modifications to the sample preparation process can sometimes allow for the successful analysis of 6PPD-quinone using GC-MS.

Regulatory and Environmental Management

Addressing the environmental impact of 6PPD-quinone requires a multifaceted approach. Regulatory frameworks in the UK and other countries are evolving to better manage and mitigate the risks associated with this compound. Strategies include stricter controls on tyre production, improved waste management practices, and enhanced monitoring of environmental contamination.

Regulations and Standards

In the UK, regulations governing the disposal and recycling of tyres aim to minimise environmental harm. The End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive and the Landfill Directive are key pieces of legislation that impact how tyres are managed at the end of their life cycle. These regulations promote recycling and recovery over disposal, thereby reducing the potential for 6PPD-quinone to enter the environment through landfill leachate.

Improved Waste Management

Improving waste management practices is crucial for mitigating the environmental impact of 6PPD-quinone. This includes promoting the use of sustainable materials in tyre production, enhancing tyre recycling processes, and developing alternative methods for managing tyre waste. For example, pyrolysis, a process that involves decomposing tyres at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen, can be used to recover valuable materials while minimising the release of harmful compounds.

Monitoring and Research

Ongoing monitoring and research are essential for understanding the full extent of 6PPD-quinone’s environmental impact. This includes regular testing of water, soil, and air samples in areas prone to contamination. Research initiatives aimed at developing new analytical methods and improving existing ones are also critical. Furthermore, studying the ecological and health effects of 6PPD-quinone exposure helps to inform regulatory decisions and public health policies.


6PPD-quinone, while indispensable in enhancing the durability and safety of tyres, presents significant environmental challenges. Its presence in road tailings, shredded tyres, landfill leachate, and various other environmental settings underscores the need for comprehensive management and regulatory strategies. Through advanced analytical testing, improved waste management practices, and ongoing research, we can better understand and mitigate the risks associated with this compound. As we continue to address the environmental impact of 6PPD-quinone, it is crucial to balance the benefits of its use in tyres with the need to protect our ecosystems and public health.

Published: 27 May 2024