The ethylbenzen effect for environment and health

Environmental effects

Ethylbenzene is found mostly as a vapor in the air since it can easily move from water and soil. A median concentration of 0.62 parts per billion (ppb) was found in urban air in 1999.A study conducted in 2012 found that in country air the median concentration was found to be 0.01 ppb and indoors the median concentration was 1.0 ppb. It can also be released into the air through the burning of coal, gas, and oil. The use of ethylbenzene in industry contributes to ethylbenzene vapor in the air. After about three days in the air with the help of sunlight, other chemicals break down ethylbenzene into chemicals that can be found in smog.Since it does not readily bind to soil it can also easily move into groundwater. In surface water, it breaks down when it reacts with chemicals naturally found in water.Generally, ethylbenzene is not found in drinking water, however it can be found in residential drinking water wells if the wells are near waste sites, underground fuel storage tanks that are leaking, or landfills.


As of 2012, according to the EU Dangerous Substances Directive, ethylbenzene is not classified as hazardous to the environment.

Health effects

The acute toxicity of ethylbenzene is low, with an LD50 of about 4 grams per kilogram of body weight. The longer term toxicity and carcinogenicity is ambiguous. Eye and throat sensitivity can occur when high level exposure to ethylbenzene in the air occurs. At higher level exposure, ethylbenzene can cause dizziness. Once inside the body, ethylbenzene biodegrades to 1-phenylethanol, acetophenone, phenylglyoxylic acid, mandelic acid, benzoic acid and hippuric acid.


As of September 2007, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that drinking water with concentration of 30 parts per million (ppm) for one day or 3 ppm for ten days is not expected to have any adverse effect in children. Lifetime exposure of 0.7 ppm ethylbenzene is not expected to have any adverse effect either. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) limits exposure to workers to an average 100 ppm for an 8-hour work day, a 40-hour workweek.


Ethylbenzene is classified as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) however, the EPA has not determined ethylbenzene to be a carcinogen. The National Toxicology Program conducted an inhalation study in rats and mice. Exposure to ethylbenzene resulted in an increased incidence of kidney and testicular tumors in male rats, and trends of increased kidney tumors in female rats, lung tumors in male mice, and liver tumors in female mice.


As for all organic compounds, ethylbenzene vapors form an explosive mixture with air.When transporting ethylbenzene, it is classified as a flammable liquid in class 3, Packing Group