Theobromine

What is Theobromine?

Theobromine (chemical formula: C7H8N4O2), also known as xanthine, is an alkaloid derived from cacao beans. It appears as a white odourless powder that is bitter in taste. It does not mix well with water. 

What is Theobromine used for?

Theobromine was formerly used in pharmaceuticals; to widen blood vessels, a diuretic and a heart stimulant. Currently, while not added to cocoa or chocolate products, it is present in these foods due to their natural occurrence in the cocoa beans that are used to produce them. 

The amounts of theobromine in chocolate are low enough for safe human consumption
The amounts of theobromine in chocolate are low enough for safe human consumption

Theobromine Hazards

The routes of exposure for theobromine include; inhalation, ingestion and skin and eye contact. 

Inhalation of theobromine is not thought to cause any respiratory irritation, however good hygiene practice requires exposure is minimised and control measures are put in place in an occupational setting. Inhalation may produce irritation in the nose and throat, causing a cough and some chest discomfort. Persons with existing conditions such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, circulatory or nervous system damage or kidney damage, may incur further damage if inhaled. 

Ingestion of theobromine may be harmful, leading to fatality or serious damage to the health of the individual. While ingestion of concentrations below 300mg are harmless and can help relieve mental fatigue, ingestion of concentrations above 1g can cause palpitation, excitement, insomnia, headache, dizziness and vomiting. High doses may cause flushing and dryness of the skin, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, anorexia, jaundice, liver impairment among others. Most of these effects subside when use is discontinued. 

Skin contact with theobromine is not thought to be a skin irritant, however systemic harm may occur following entry into the bloodstream through open cuts or wounds. 

Eye exposure to theobromine may cause discomfort characterised by tearing and redness. Slight abrasive damage may also result.

Theobromine Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area. Other measures are not usually necessary. 

If swallowed, seek medical attention immediately as urgent hospital treatment is likely to be required. In the meantime, a qualified person in first-aid should treat and support the patient according to their condition. When medical attention is over 15 minutes away, induce vomiting with fingers down the back of the throat, ensuring the patient is leaned forward or placed on their left side (to avoid aspiration). 

If skin exposure occurs, flush the affected skin and hair with running water and soap. Seek medical attention in the event of irritation.

If the chemical is exposed to the eyes, flush the eyes out immediately with fresh running water, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Contact lenses should only be removed by skilled personnel. Seek medical attention if irritation persists.

Theobromine Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains and safety showers should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical. There should always be adequate ventilation to remove or dilute any air contaminants (install local exhaust if necessary). 

The PPE recommended when handling theobromine includes; chemical goggles, full face shields, dust respirators, lab coats and rubber or PVC gloves. 

Refer to your SDS for more detailed information on the safe handling of theobromine. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at sales@chemwatch.net for more information about our chemicals management solutions.