Request for information about Diethanolamine

July 2013
NIOSH Docket Number 263, CDC-2013-0005

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) intends to evaluate the scientific data on diethanolamine, and develop appropriate communication documents, such as a Criteria Document, which will convey the potential health risks, recommended measures for safe handling, and establish an updated Recommended Exposure Limit (REL). The current REL for diethanolamine is 3 ppm as a TWA concentration for up to a 10-hr work shift during a 40-hr workweek. The NIOSH REL was established as a result of testimony submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on their proposed rulemaking of Air Contaminants in 1988. Currently, concentrations below the REL can be detected and quantified. As part of an effort to identify RELs that may not be adequate to protect workers from adverse health effects due to exposure, NIOSH is reexamining the REL for diethanolamine. There is no OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL) for diethanolamine.

Diethanolamine is a highly reactive compound. It decomposes on burning producing toxic fumes. Diethanolamine reacts violently with oxidants and strong acids. Diethanolamine is used to produce surface active agents widely used in soaps, cosmetics and personal care items. It also has other uses including as an absorbent in gas purification, as a dispersing agent in agricultural chemicals, a corrosion inhibitor and wetting agent in metalworking fluids. Significant occupational exposures to diethanolamine are through the skin (dermal) and via inhalation (lung) during the use of lubricating liquids in various processes in machine building. Chronic exposure to diethanolamine can cause skin sensitization. Diethanolamine is also corrosive to the eyes.

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Background Information

Notice of draft publication available for public comment; 77 FR 24207; 4/24/13pdf icon [PDF – 21 KB]

National occupational exposure survey analysis of management interview responsespdf icon [PDF – 12,332 KB]

Report on carcinogens background document for diethanolaminepdf icon [PDF – 6,834 KB]

Page last reviewed: July 16, 2013