2-Furancarboxaldehyde (Furfural)

CAS Registry Number 98-01-1

What is it?

  • 2-Furancarboxaldehyde, also known as furfural, is an industrial chemical.
  • It is naturally found in a variety of foods and beverages, in particular fruits and vegetables, and can also be formed during the processing or cooking of several foods, particularly roasted nuts, coffee and wine.

How is it used?

  • Furfural is mainly used as an industrial processing agent.
  • Furfural is not manufactured in Canada, but it is imported into Canada.

Why did the Government of Canada assess it?

  • Prior to the assessment, furfural was identified as a potential concern to human health based on its classification by international organizations as a substance that was found to cause cancer in laboratory animals, and based on a high potential for exposure (not including workplace exposures) to the general population of Canada.
  • Furfural was not considered to be a high priority for assessment of potential risks to the environment; however, potential environmental effects were also evaluated in this screening assessment.

How are Canadians exposed to it?

  • The general population in Canada may be exposed to low levels of furfural from the natural occurrence of furfural in foods and beverages, but also from environmental media (ambient and indoor air), and from the use of consumer products containing this substance; however, these exposures are expected to be low.
  • Canadians may also be exposed from inhalation of tobacco smoke.

How is it released to the environment?

  • Furfural may be released to the environment through various waste streams, as a result of its production and use.

What are the results of the assessment?

  • The Government of Canada has conducted a science-based evaluation of furfural, called a screening assessment.
  • Screening assessments address potential for harm to the general population (not including workplace exposures) and the environment.
  • Results of the final screening assessment indicate that furfural is not expected to remain in the environment for a long time, or to accumulate in organisms.
  • Furthermore, the quantity of furfural that may be released to the environment is below the level expected to cause harm to organisms.
  • The Government of Canada has therefore concluded that furfural is not entering the environment in a quantity or under conditions that constitute a danger to the environment.
  • The Government of Canada has also concluded that furfural is not harmful to the health of the general population at current levels of exposure.

What is the Government of Canada doing?

  • Due to the high volume use, the Government of Canada proposes to investigate the utility of adding furfural to the Environmental Emergency Regulations, so that emergency prevention, preparedness, response and recovery requirements are put in place.
  • Based on the conclusion of the final screening assessment, the Government of Canada proposes that no further action be taken on furfural.
  • The final screening assessment report was published on September 10, 2011.

What can Canadians do?

  • The health risks associated with a chemical depend on the hazard (its potential to cause health effects) and the dose (the amount of chemical to which you are exposed). Furfural is not a concern for the environment or human health at current levels of exposure.
  • As a general precaution, Canadians are reminded when using any product, to carefully follow any safety warnings and directions.
  • Tobacco smoke is also a source of furfural. Canadians are reminded that they should not smoke. For more information about smoking and how to quit, please visit the Health Concerns - Tobacco section of Health Canada's Web site or speak with a doctor.
  • Canadians who handle furfural in the workplace should consult with their occupational health and safety representative about safe handling practices, applicable laws and requirements under the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).
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