The proceedings from a NIOSH symposium on the toxic effects of glycol ethers are reviewed. The basic uses of ethylene-glycol (107211) and other ether esters, especially in various surface coatings, are discussed. The combination of mild odor, low evaporation rate, good solvent and coupling activity, flow and leveling qualities, blush resistance, and solvent release are cited as factors that contribute to the unique position occupied by this class of compounds. Despite the widespread use of ethylene-glycol ethers, serious difficulties have been encountered by NIOSH when attempting to identify an appropriate population for epidemiologic study. The progress made toward development of methods for the analysis for glycol ethers and their metabolites in blood and urine is described. A consistent pattern of embryotoxic and teratogenic effects in various species and diverse routes of exposure is shown for ethylene-glycol-monomethyl-ether (109864) (EGME) and ethylene- glycol-monoethyl-ether (110805). One study reported that propylene- glycol-monomethyl-ether (1320678) had relatively low acute maternal toxicity and was not teratogenic. A variety of in-vitro and mutagenesis tests is reported. A lack of genotoxicity was found in EGME, diethylene-glycol-dimethyl-ether (111966), and diethylene- glycol-monobutyl-ether (112345). In-vitro tests are suggested for predicting teratogenic activity. In-vitro cell to cell communication employing human embryonal natal palatal mesenchyme cells is evaluated; EGME inhibited intercellular communication by cytotoxic means. This subchronic and chronic toxicity of several glycol ethers is confirmed and the embryotoxicity of these substances is recognized. The authors suggest that the studies reported will provide a basis for the design of future studies and for making the best informed business decisions possible on exposure or substitutions.