What is Hydantoin?

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  • Written By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Hydantoin, commonly referred to as glycolylurea, is a chemical compound usually produced by heating the combination of glycolic acid and urea, creating a white crystalline powder. The term might also refer to chemical compounds that have other molecular structures bonded to a hydantoin skeletal ring. Chemists generally use the second type of compound in formulating anticonvulsant medications. Compounds with bromine or chlorine constituents are frequently used for disinfectants and sanitizers.

Heating a combination of glycolic acid and urea produces a double condensation reaction. During the process of binding, the two chemicals form a pair of nitrogen/hydrogen/oxygen bonds. Carbon molecules are usually shed along with excess hydrogen and oxygen molecules, which form water. Chemists might also synthesize hydantoin by subjecting allantoin and hydroiodic acid or bromacetyl urea and alcoholic ammonia to heat.

Chemical reactions that cause the attachment of a hydantoin ring to certain molecular structures often result in derivatives used in medications, including dantrolene and phenytoin, which inhibit spasticity and seizures. Since they are chemically similar to barbiturates, these medications produce central nervous system (CNS) effects, including drowsiness and dizziness. Researchers believe dantrolene produces muscle relaxation by interfering with the influx of calcium ions, reducing muscle spasticity caused by hyperstimulation.


Health care providers generally use dantrolene to treat the spasticity commonly associated with cerebral palsy or spinal cord injuries. The calming effects of this derivative might also be used as treatment for malignant hyperthermia, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, and Ecstasy intoxication. Physicians frequently use phenytoin in treating epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Research indicates that the medication enhances sodium ion flow in brain cells, when imbalance causes overstimulation and seizures.

When combined with bromine and chlorine, dimethylhydantoin forms the derivative bromo-chloro-dimethylhydantoin, or BCDMH, a compound frequently used as a disinfectant. It demonstrates biocidal properties against a wide range of pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and yeast. BCDMH is frequently used as a sanitizer in breweries and drinking water purification plants. It might also be used to disinfect the water in swimming pools, hot tubs, or spas. The hydantoin derivative, dibromo-dimethlyhydantoin, or DBDMH, may be used as a bleaching agent in paper mills in addition to its use for water purification.

The derivative dimethol-dimethyl-hydantoin, or DMDM hydantoin, is a chemical preservative frequently found in a wide range of household products. Latex paints, waxes, personal hygiene products, and cosmetics might contain the substance, as it resists bacterial and mold growth. DMDM hydantoin releases formaldehyde, so regulations specify the amount of DMDM hydantoin that products may contain.


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