August 9, 2023

A Sticky Situation: The Delaware Latex Spill

Brittany Ladson, DO, Lindsay Davis, DO, MPH


From March 24th - 26th, 2023, there was a massive acrylic latex polymer spill by the Trinseo company into the Delaware River. Approximately 30,000 L was spilled into one of the tributaries of the river. The company stated it was a malfunction of one of their containment systems, and thus the chemicals were leaked into a nearby storm drain. Out of concern, Trinseo initially warned residents of the area that they should avoid drinking or using their water; however, after testing was performed, there was no evidence of latex polymer (butyl acrylate, ethyl acrylate, and methyl methacrylate) in the city’s drinking water supply. 

The Chemicals

Latex polymer is made of butyl acrylate, ethyl acrylate, and methyl methacrylate. These substances are used to make paint and headlight covers. It is normally only toxic when a person is directly exposed. Because the chemicals are so dilute in the water supply, experts state the risk of direct exposure is very low. Currently, there are not any known long-term effects of these chemicals. One of these substances, butyl acrylate, was a substance that was also spilled in the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment. 


Experts have stated that there aren’t any risks to the city’s drinking water, however, residents still want to take precautions. Boiling the water will not help as this only kills bacteria. Drinking bottled water is the only way to ensure clean drinking water. Currently, there are no known treatments for the latex polymer exposure. The long-term effects of these substances are currently unknown. 


Chemical spills are becoming increasingly common in today’s world. There’s also apprehension to believe that water and soil supplies are being thoroughly integrated for safety. Continued monitoring of the area’s drinking water is necessary to adequately assess the effects of these substances. 


  1. City’s response to spill of a latex product into the Delaware River | Office of Emergency Management. City of Philadelphia. Published March 26, 2023.
  2. American Chemical Society. Published 2023.
  3. Schmall E. Philadelphia Monitoring Water Supply After Chemical Spill. The New York Times. Published March 26. 2023. 
  4. What is the chemical that spilled in Bucks County? Published March 26, 2023.
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