Agent Name

GLYCOL ETHERS

Alternative Name

CLASS

Major Category

Solvents

Synonyms

CLASSES; Cellosolve solvents; Glycol ethers (E Series); Glycol Ethers (P Series); Glycol Ethers (Glymes);

Category

Glycol Ethers (E Series)

Sources/Uses

Used in antifreeze and deicing solutions for cars, boats, and aircraft; also used as a solvent for paints, plastics, photographic developing solutions, coolants, hydraulic fluids, and inks; [ATSDR ToxFAQs] 2-Methoxyethanol has been used as a solvent for dyes in the textile industry; [ACGIH]

Comments

Low molecular weight E-series (ethylene glycol derivatives) have been largely replaced with low molecular weight P-series (propylene glycol derivatives) over the last 35 years. [PMID 15705483] Glycol ethers (E series) include 2-methoxyethanol (EGME), 2-ethoxyethanol (EGEE), 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE), and their acetates. These agents may be absorbed through the skin without causing irritation. The most toxic glycol ethers are reproductive and suspected bone marrow toxins; studies of workers heavily exposed to these chemicals have shown evidence of testicular toxicity, increased risk of birth defects, and pancytopenia. EGME and EGEE are reported causes of pancytopenia in animals and in the workplace; Higher molecular weight glycol ethers cause hemolysis in animal experiments. [LaDou, p. 549] "While there is insufficient evidence to conclude that exposure to glycol ethers results in blood or bone marrow toxicity, common sense dictates that exposure of these agents should be minimized." [Sullivan, p. 758] Of greatest concern are the ethylene glycol ethers EGME, EGEE, and their acetates EGMEA and EGEEA. They cause liver, kidney, blood, and reproductive injury in animals. As photolithography solvents, they were discontinued in the mid-1990s in the semiconductor manufacturing industry and replaced with propylene glycol monomethyl ether acetate (PGMEA) and other solvents. PGMEA is not metabolized to toxic intermediates like the ethylene glycol ethers. It has no known chronic health effects unless it is contaminated by the beta isomer of PGMEA. [Sullivan, p. 450-1] Classified by the European Union as reproductive toxins: EGEE (110-80-5), EGME (109-86-4), DEGDME (111-96-6), EGDME (110-71-4), TEGDME (112-49-2), and 1PG2ME (107-98-2); [Glycol Ethers Online] A 2001 study of 109 workers found "current glycol ether exposure levels were low and not correlated with either seminal quality or hormone levels." [PMID 17332140] After intentional ingestion of large amounts, glycol ethers cause CNS depression, coma, and severe kidney and liver injury. [Ford, p. 776] The three categories of glycol ethers in this database are Glycol Ethers (E Series), Glycol Ethers (P Series), and Glycol Ethers (Glymes).

Restricted

ACGIH lowered TLVs for EGME, EGMEA, EGEE, and EGEEA in 1985 to 5 ppm after new animal evidence of fetal death & resorption at inhalation levels as low as 10 ppm. [Sullivan, p. 490] TLVs for EGME and EGMEA further reduced in 2006;

Reference Link

EPA Pesticide Chemical Search

Exposure Assessment
Reference Link

EPA TOXICS RELEASE INVENTORY: List of Toxic Chemicals within the Glycol Ethers Category

Adverse Effects
Anemia

Anemia, Aplastic

Neurotoxin

CNS Solvent Syndrome

Hepatotoxin

Hepatotoxin, Secondary

Nephrotoxin

Yes

Reproductive Toxin

Yes

Links to Other NLM Databases
Toxicity Information

Search TOXNET

Related Information in HazMap
Diseases

Occupational diseases associated with exposure to this agent:

Processes

Industrial Processes with risk of exposure:

Activities

Activities with risk of exposure: