The health Risks of ethylbenzene

The health effects of exposure to ethylbenzene are not well understood, although adverse outcomes associated with airborne ethylbenzene have been demonstrated in animal studies. High concentrations of ethylbenzene have been shown to cause liver and lung cancer in mice and kidney cancer in rats. An assessment by the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that ethylbenzene was possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence in experimental animals and inadequate evidence in humans. Adverse health effects in animals occurred at much higher levels than those to which Canadians are generally exposed.

Special vulnerabilities of children have not been established; however, tests on animals have demonstrated increased incidence of birth defects among pregnant females exposed to airborne ethylbenzene.

Ethylbenzene is rarely used alone. Many of the acute non-carcinogenic health effects associated with ethylbenzene exposure have been ascribed to the mixed xylenes with which it is found in technical grade solvents that are used in industrial and consumer products.

Testing for ethylbenzene exposure is primarily through urinalysis, although it can also be present in the blood and some body tissues. While ethylbenzene has a moderate attraction to fats, Environment Canada’s draft screening assessment report states that it does not bioaccumulate (build up).