2,3-Benzofuran is a colorless, sweet-smelling, oily liquid which does not mix with water. 2,3-Benzofuran is made by processing coal into coal oil. 2,3-Benzofuran may also be formed during other uses of coal or oil. The part of the coal oil that contains 2,3-benzofuran is made into a plastic called coumarone-indene resin. Coumarone-indene resin can then be used to make paint, varnish, glue, and floor tiles, and it is allowed on food products and packages. We know very little about how 2,3-benzofuran might get into the environment or what happens to it after it gets there.
Exposure to 2-3,benzofuran
2,3-Benzofuran has been found in a few places in the air and water. In most instances, when it was found, the amount that was there was not measured. We do not know what the levels of 2,3-benzofuran are in soil, air, water, or food. The reason that 2,3-benzofuran has not often been found could be that 2,3-benzofuran usually attaches to particles, and is not free in the air or water. We do not know where 2,3-benzofuran comes from, except when it is found near fuel-processing factories. Workers who make coal oil or coumarone-indene resin might be exposed to 2,3-benzofuran. Cigarette smoke has some 2,3-benzofuran in it. Coumarone-indene resin is allowed in food packages and as a coating on oranges and grapefruit. We do not know how often the resin is used or whether any 2,3-benzofuran in it gets into the food.
Pathways for 2-3,benzofuran in the body
We know very little about how 2,3-benzofuran can enter or leave your body. Some 2,3-benzofuran can enter your body from the environment if it is in the water that you drink, the food that you eat, or the air that you breathe. We do not know how much you would take in or when and how it would leave your body.
Health effects of 2-3,benzofuran
The effect of 2,3-benzofuran on your health depends on how much you take into your body. In general, the more you take in, the greater the chances that an effect will occur. No studies have been done to test the effects of 2,3-benzofuran on the health of humans. Studies in animals show that 2,3-benzofuran can damage the liver and kidneys if large amounts are given within a short time, and that very large amounts can kill. We do not know whether exposure to 2,3-benzofuran can affect your ability to have children or can harm an unborn baby.
You should know that one way to learn whether a chemical will harm people is to determine how the body absorbs, uses, and releases the chemical. For some chemicals, animal testing may be necessary. Animal testing may also help identify such health effects as cancer or birth defects. Without laboratory animals, scientists would lose a basic method for getting information needed to make wise decisions that protect public health. Scientists have the responsibility to treat research animals with care and compassion. Scientists must comply with strict animal care guidelines because laws today protect the welfare of research animals.
Additionally, there are vigorous national and international efforts to develop alternatives to animal testing. The efforts focus on both in vitro and in silico approaches and methods. For example, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) created the NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM) in 1998. The role of NICEATM is to serve the needs of high quality, credible science by facilitating development and validation—and regulatory and public acceptance—of innovative, revised test methods that reduce, refine, and replace the use of animals in testing while strengthening protection of human health, animal health and welfare, and the environment. In Europe, similar efforts at developing alternatives to animal based testing are taking place under the aegis of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM).
Studies in animals show that exposure to 2,3-benzofuran at moderate levels over a long time can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and stomach. The brain, muscles, and heart do not seem to be seriously damaged by long-term exposure. Some rats and mice that received 2,3-benzofuran for their whole lives developed cancer of the kidney, lung, liver, or stomach. However, no cases of cancer in humans have been linked to exposure to 2,3-benzofuran.
Medical tests for exposure to 2-3,benzofuran
2,3-Benzofuran can be measured in your blood or in your milk if you are a nursing mother. The test is specific for 2,3-benzofuran but it requires special equipment and is not easily available. The test may only be able to detect 2,3-benzofuran for a certain period of time because it is not known how long 2,3-benzofuran remains in the body after you have been exposed to it. Also, the test only shows that you have been exposed; it cannot predict which health effects, if any, you will develop.
Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.