Health effects of bis(2-chloroethyl) ether (BCEE)

Introduction

Exposure to BCEE is most likely to occur in or near chemical plants where it is made or used, or near waste sites where it has been improperly disposed of. One way exposure might occur is through consumption of drinking water that contains BCEE. Low levels (0.01 to 0.5 parts per billion [ppb]) of BCEE have been detected in the drinking water supplies of several cities, and higher levels (840 ppb) have been detected in underground water near some chemical waste sites. Although BCEE evaporates relatively slowly, exposure might also occur through breathing BCEE vapors near areas where it is used or stored. However no information exists on the levels of BCEE in outdoor air.

Exposure to BCEE

Exposure to BCEE is most likely to occur in or near chemical plants where it is made or used, or near waste sites where it has been improperly disposed of. One way exposure might occur is through consumption of drinking water that contains BCEE. Low levels (0.01 to 0.5 parts per billion [ppb]) of BCEE have been detected in the drinking water supplies of several cities, and higher levels (840 ppb) have been detected in underground water near some chemical waste sites. Although BCEE evaporates relatively slowly, exposure might also occur through breathing BCEE vapors near areas where it is used or stored. However no information exists on the levels of BCEE in outdoor air.

Pathways for BCEE in the body

BCEE enters the body easily after being swallowed in food or water, or after being inhaled in air. It may also enter by crossing the skin when dermal contact occurs. Once inside the body, BCEE is broken down to a number of different chemicals, and these are eliminated in the urine or the breath. Most BCEE which enters the body is removed in this way within two to three days, so BCEE does not tend to accumulate in the body.

Health effects of BCEE

BCEE enters the body easily after being swallowed in food or water, or after being inhaled in air. It may also enter by crossing the skin when dermal contact occurs. Once inside the body, BCEE is broken down to a number of different chemicals, and these are eliminated in the urine or the breath. Most BCEE which enters the body is removed in this way within two to three days, so BCEE does not tend to accumulate in the body.

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).

Harmful levels of exposure to BCEE

Irritation to the eye and nose has been seen in people at levels of 35 parts per million (ppm) and above of BCEE in air. In animals, lung injury and death were noted at levels of 105 ppm in air, while nose irritation occurred at levels of 35 ppm. Decreased weight gain was seen in guinea pigs and rats at levels of 69 ppm in air.

No information is available on the levels of BCEE that have caused adverse health effects when people or animals ingested the chemical.

Medical tests for exposure to BCEE

Although there are chemical tests that can identify and measure BCEE, these have not been developed for measuring BCEE in humans.

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 bis(2-chloroethyl) ether (BCEE). Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbedf97896bb431f6952ee

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