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Xanthates are expected to be primary release to waterways as a result of industrial activity and to soil in the case of accidental spillage.

Environmental fate of xanthates are determined by easy hydrolysis in soil or in waterways. The substances decompose to carbon disulfide, alcohol, sodium carbonate and sodium trithiocarbonate. At pH 7 and at 250C the half live of sodium isobutyl xanthate is reported about 260 hours (10.8 days), but et pH 8-11 increases to about 500 hours (20.8 days).

Xanthates et very low concentration (in the order of 0.2 to 1.2 mg/dm3) as residues in tailings after ore flotation are not discharged directly to waterways but to some well constructed tailing dams, where the substances will retained for at least two weeks.