The ethylbenzene in the envrionment
Sources of ethylbenzene to the atmosphere include petroleum and coal refining, vehicle emissions, and evaporation from solvents and thinners. Ethylbenzene may be released to the air through the use of consumer products such as solvents, enamel brush paints and spray paints, stains and varnishes. It may be released to soil and water from leaking underground gasoline storage tanks, landfill sites, spills during transportation, pesticide use, and discharges of industrial and municipal waste. Ethylbenzene is also found in tobacco and wood smoke.
Ethylbenzene can be very mobile when released into the environment, and quickly and easily moves into air from other sources. There are four main routes that ethylbenzene may take within the environment.
Ethylbenzene easily evaporates from soil into the atmosphere, depending on factors such as temperature and humidity.
Ethylbenzene binds well to some soils, especially soils rich in organic matter. Clay minerals also bind ethylbenzene.
Ethylbenzene is converted into carbon dioxide and water when soil microbes degrade it. Degradation occurs in both oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor conditions.
Ethylbenzene is moderately soluble in water, so rainwater leaching through the ground can carry ethylbenzene with it into the groundwater, or contamination may occur from industrial run-off or improperly maintained underground storage tanks.
As a result of its widespread use, there are many potential sources of exposure for the Canadian population. Ethylbenzene has been detected in outdoor air, indoor air, drinking water, soil and food; however according to Health Canada’s draft screening assessment report, the greatest exposure is via indoor air. Studies in the United States have reported that commuting in an automobile in heavy traffic can also result in elevated ethylbenzene exposure.