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Current intelligence bulletin 39 - the glycol ethers, with particular reference to 2-methoxyethanol and 2-ethoxyethanol: evidence of adverse reproductive effects (with reference package).

Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 83-112, (CIB 39), 1983 May; :1-22
Adverse reproductive effects of 2-methoxyethanol (109864) (2ME) and 2-ethoxyethanol (110805) (2EE) were discussed with emphasis on animal studies. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration Permissible Exposure Limits for 2ME and 2EE are 25 parts per million (ppm) and 200ppm, respectively, as 8 hour time weighted averages. At levels above and below these limits, both compounds showed embryotoxicity, teratogenicity, testicular toxicity, and maternal toxicity in animals. Both 2ME and 2EE caused fetal deaths, skeletal and cardiovascular malformations, fetal growth retardation, and maternal leukopenia and death when animals were exposed by oral, inhalation, dermal, or subcutaneous routes during gestation. Exposure of male animals by various routes caused testicular atrophy and microscopic changes, abnormal spermhead morphology, infertility and death. Neither compound affected female fertility when exposure was several weeks prior to mating. Alterations in behavioral test responses and brain neurochemical levels were seen in newborn and 3 week old offspring of dams exposed to 2EE during pregnancy. No mutagenicity was found for either compound when tested in several strains of Salmonella-typhimurium, with or without mammalian liver S9 supernatant. Acetate esters of both compounds showed similar toxicities, and other structurally related glycol ether compounds showed some reproductive effects in a few studies. Few epidemiological studies of reproductive effects in humans were done; however, encephalopathy and pancytopenia were reported after exposure to 2ME. The authors conclude that 2ME and 2EE are potential occupational reproductive hazards, and reassessment of current exposure standards is suggested. Recommendations for minimizing worker exposure include exposure monitoring, product substitution, control of air contamination, worker isolation, and personal protective equipment targeted at airborne and dermal exposures.
NIOSH-Current-Intelligence-Bulletin-No-39; Alcohols; Glycols; Ethers; Laboratory-animals; In-vivo-studies; Toxic-effects; Teratology; Reproductive-system-disorders; Reproductive-hazards; Epidemiology
109-86-4; 110-80-5
Publication Date
Document Type
Numbered Publication; Current Intelligence Bulletin
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 83-112; CIB 39
NIOSH Division
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division