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Publication of NEG and NIOSH Basis for an Occupational Health Standard: Ethyl Ether

CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recently released NEG and NIOSH Basis for an Occupational Health Standard: Ethyl Ether (1) *. This document was developed as the result of an agreement between NIOSH and the Nordic Expert Group for Documentation of Occupational Exposure Limits (NEG) to exchange occupational safety and health information and expertise.

The document presents a survey of the literature concerning occupational exposure limits for ethyl ether. This chemical has a wide range of uses in the chemical industry, mainly as a solvent and an extraction medium. Ethyl ether has also been used as an inhalation anesthetic for surgery, but it has largely been replaced in this role by more modern anesthetics. More than 125 million tons of ethyl ether are produced each year in the United States.

The acute and chronic toxicities of ethyl ether are low, and the principal exposure routes in the occupational setting are inhalation and skin contact. The critical effect of ethyl ether is irritation of the upper respiratory passages. Long-term exposure to low concentrations in air may produce central nervous system symptoms such as sleepiness, dizziness, irritability, headache, and psychic disturbances. Ethyl ether is a mild skin irritant, especially after repeated exposures.


  1. NIOSH. NEG and NIOSH basis for an occupational health standard: ethyl ether. Cincinnati: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, 1993; DHHS publication no. (NIOSH)93-103.

    • Single copies of this document are available without charge from the Publications Office, Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, NIOSH, CDC, Mailstop C-13, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226-1998; telephone (800) 356-4674; fax (513) 533-8573.

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Page converted: 09/19/98


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