Health effects of 1,2-dibromoethane

Introduction

1,2-Dibromoethane is a pesticide and gasoline additive. It is mostly man-made, but it may occur naturally in the ocean in very small amounts. In the 1970s and early 1980s, it was used in soil to kill insects and worms that get on fruits, vegetables, and grain crops. It was also used in soil to protect grass, such as on golf courses. Another use was to kill fruit flies on citrus fruits, mangoes, and papayas after they were picked. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stopped most of these uses in 1984. 1,2-Dibromoethane is added to leaded gasoline to produce better fuel efficiency. Because use of leaded gasoline has fallen, less 1,2-dibromoethane is made for this use. The chemical is a colorless liquid with a mild, sweet odor. It evaporates easily and can dissolve in water. 1,2-Dibromoethane stays in groundwater and in soil for a long time but breaks down quickly in the air.

Exposure to 1,2-dibromoethane

You can be exposed to low levels of 1,2-dibromoethane in drinking water (especially well water) and in air. Before EPA stopped the use of 1,2-dibromoethane as a pesticide, the most common way you would have been exposed was by eating food that had very small amounts of this chemical in it. You could still be exposed to low levels of 1,2-dibromoethane, particularly from groundwater (well water), in areas where the chemical was used in farming or from hazardous waste sites. Most of the 1,2-dibromoethane that enters the soil will get into the groundwater or evaporate into the air. Small amounts can remain in very tiny particles in soil near hazardous waste sites or in areas once used as farmland. The compound may be released from these particles slowly over time or if the soil is crushed or disturbed. You can be exposed to 1,2-dibromoethane in the air near production plants. Background levels in the environment are very low. The air most people breathe contains between 0.01-0.06 parts of 1,2-dibromoethane per billion parts of air (ppb). Because 1,2-dibromoethane easily evaporates, most surface waters do not contain detectable amounts. Groundwater is more likely to contain 1,2-dibromoethane with an average concentration of about 0.9 ppb. In foods, 1,2-dibromoethane has recently been found in 2 out of 549 samples at concentrations of 2 and 11 ppb. There is no information on background levels in surface water or soil. If you applied 1,2-dibromoethane on a farm or golf course, if you worked to pack fruits gassed with 1,2-dibromoethane, or if you worked in a factory that made 1,2-dibromoethane, you could be exposed to much higher than background levels.

Pathways for 1,2-dibromoethane in the body

You can be exposed to low levels of 1,2-dibromoethane in drinking water (especially well water) and in air. Before EPA stopped the use of 1,2-dibromoethane as a pesticide, the most common way you would have been exposed was by eating food that had very small amounts of this chemical in it. You could still be exposed to low levels of 1,2-dibromoethane, particularly from groundwater (well water), in areas where the chemical was used in farming or from hazardous waste sites. Most of the 1,2-dibromoethane that enters the soil will get into the groundwater or evaporate into the air. Small amounts can remain in very tiny particles in soil near hazardous waste sites or in areas once used as farmland. The compound may be released from these particles slowly over time or if the soil is crushed or disturbed. You can be exposed to 1,2-dibromoethane in the air near production plants. Background levels in the environment are very low. The air most people breathe contains between 0.01-0.06 parts of 1,2-dibromoethane per billion parts of air (ppb). Because 1,2-dibromoethane easily evaporates, most surface waters do not contain detectable amounts. Groundwater is more likely to contain 1,2-dibromoethane with an average concentration of about 0.9 ppb. In foods, 1,2-dibromoethane has recently been found in 2 out of 549 samples at concentrations of 2 and 11 ppb. There is no information on background levels in surface water or soil. If you applied 1,2-dibromoethane on a farm or golf course, if you worked to pack fruits gassed with 1,2-dibromoethane, or if you worked in a factory that made 1,2-dibromoethane, you could be exposed to much higher than background levels.

Health effects of 1,2-dibromoethane

The effects of breathing high levels of 1,2-dibromoethane in humans are unknown. Studies in animals show that they can die from breathing high concentrations of 1,2-dibromoethane for a short time while lower concentrations can cause liver and kidney damage. You can die if you swallow or have skin contact with large quantities of 1,2-dibromoethane. A woman who drank 40 milliliters (mL) of pure liquid 1,2-dibromoethane died within a day. Changes in the liver and kidney are reported in humans that died of ingestion of 1,2-dibromoethane. People who tried to commit suicide by swallowing concentrated 1,2-dibromoethane got ulcers inside their mouth and stomach. Laboratory rats and mice fed less-concentrated 1,2-dibromoethane for as little as 2 weeks had damage to the lining of their stomach. If you spill liquid 1,2-dibromoethane on your skin, you can get blisters.

Breathing 1,2-dibromoethane for moderately long periods damages the lining of the nose in rats. This effect has not been seen in humans. Animals that breathed or ate food containing 1,2-dibromoethane for short or long periods were less fertile or had abnormal sperms. Changes in the brain and behavior have occurred in young rats whose male parents had breathed 1,2-dibromoethane.

A worker who breathed 1,2-dibromoethane for several years developed bronchitis, headache, and depression, but his health improved after he stopped breathing air contaminated with 1,2-dibromoethane. 1,2-Dibromoethane is not known to cause birth defects in people. It can impair reproduction in males by damaging sperms in testicles. This type of damage has been seen in workers exposed to 1,2-dibromoethane for several years. Pregnant animals that are sick from exposure to 1,2-dibromoethane have had pups with birth defects. There are no reports of cancer in workers or other people exposed to 1,2-dibromoethane for several years. Rats and mice that repeatedly breathed, swallowed, or had skin contact with 1,2-dibromoethane for long periods had cancer in many organs.

Medical tests for exposure to 1,2-dibromoethane

There is no known reliable medical test to determine whether you have been exposed to 1,2-dibromoethane.

Further Reading



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.

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Citation

(2008). Health effects of 1,2-dibromoethane. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbedf67896bb431f69511d

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