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Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Ethylene Glycol Monomethyl Ether, Ethylene Glycol Monoethyl Ether, and Their Acetates

CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently published a document entitled Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Ethylene Glycol Monomethyl Ether, Ethylene Glycol Monoethyl Ether, and Their Acetates * (1). This document examines the occupational health risks associated with exposure to ethylene glycol monomethyl ether (EGME), ethylene glycol monoethyl ether (EGEE), and their acetates -- ethylene glycol monomethyl ether acetate (EGMEA) and ethylene glycol monoethyl ether acetate (EGEEA). Criteria are also provided for eliminating or minimizing the risks encountered by workers during the manufacture and use of these glycol ethers.

These glycol ethers adversely affect the blood, liver, and kidneys and the central nervous and hematopoietic systems. Studies in animals have demonstrated dose-related malformations, growth retardation, and embryonic death in the offspring of pregnant animals exposed to airborne concentrations of EGME or EGEE at or below their respective Occupational Safety and Health Administration permissible exposure limits (PELs). In addition, testicular atrophy and infertility occurred in male animals exposed to airborne concentrations of EGME or EGEE at or below their PELs. EGMEA and EGEEA have the same potential for reproductive and developmental effects as the parent compounds because they are metabolized to EGME and EGEE, respectively.

NIOSH therefore recommends that exposure to EGME and EGMEA in the workplace be limited to 0.1 part per million (ppm) (0.3 mg EGME/m3 and 0.5 mg EGMEA/m3) as a time-weighted average (TWA) for up to 10 hours per day during a 40-hour workweek. NIOSH also recommends that exposure to EGEE and EGEEA be limited to 0.5 ppm (1.8 mg EGEE/m3 and 2.7 mg EGEEA/m3) as a 10-hour TWA. Exposure to these glycol ethers shall be reduced using state-of-the-art engineering controls and work practices. Dermal contact is prohibited because EGME, EGEE, and their acetates are readily absorbed through the skin.

Reference

  1. NIOSH. Criteria for a recommended standard: occupational exposure to ethylene glycol monomethyl ether, ethylene glycol monoethyl ether, and their acetates. Cincinnati: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, 1991; DHHS publication no. (NIOSH)91-119.

    • Single copies of this document are available without charge from the Information Dissemination Section, Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, NIOSH, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226; telephone (513) 533-8287.

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