Benzene, (chloromethyl)- (Benzyl chloride)

CAS Registry Number 100-44-7

What is it?

  • Benzene, chloromethyl-, also known as benzyl chloride, is an industrial chemical.

How is it used?

  • Benzyl chloride is mainly used in Canada to make other chemicals used for the synthesis of a quaternary ammonium compound, known as benzalkonium chloride. Quaternary ammonium compounds are used primarily as hard surface sanitizers, corrosion inhibitors, fungicides in industrial cleaners, and as bactericides or surfactant in household and personal care products.
  • Benzyl chloride is also used to produce benzyl alcohol which is used in a wide spectrum of applications, including pharmaceuticals, cosmetic formulations, flavour products, solvents and textile dye.
  • It is also used to produce benzyl butyl phthalate used mainly as a plasticizer in vinyl flooring and other flexible polyvinyl chloride uses, such as food packaging.
  • For all of the above products, benzyl chloride may be present at very low (trace) levels, leftover from the manufacturing process.
  • Benzyl chloride is not currently manufactured in Canada but is imported into Canada.

Why is the Government of Canada assessing it?

  • Prior to the assessment, benzyl chloride 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 which may cause genetic effects, and based on a high potential for exposure to Canadians.

How are Canadians exposed to it?

  • Exposure of the general population of Canada to benzyl chloride is expected to be low and to occur predominantly via inhalation.
  • Canadians may be exposed to benzyl chloride through emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Exposure due to use of products in and around the home containing residual quantities of benzyl chloride is predicted to be low (e.g., personal care product such as hair conditioner and shower gel).
  • Exposure from other sources is expected to be negligible.

What are the results of the assessment?

  • The Government of Canada has conducted a science-based evaluation of benzyl chloride, called a screening assessment.
  • The Government of Canada has concluded that benzyl chloride is considered to be harmful to human health.
  • The Government of Canada has also concluded that benzyl chloride is not entering the environment in a quantity or under conditions that constitute a danger to the environment.

What is the Government of Canada doing?

  • Exposure of the general population of Canada is currently considered to be low and the Government of Canada is taking action so that exposure remains low.
  • The Government of Canada will investigate the utility of implementing a future use notification. This would require that any proposed new manufacture, import or use of this substance be subject to further assessment before this new activity is allowed.
  • The Government of Canada also proposes to add benzyl chloride to the Environmental Emergency Regulations of CEPA due to its high-volume use, to make sure emergency preparedness and response requirements are in place.
  • The Government of Canada is also recommending that benzyl chloride be added to Health Canada's Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist, which is the list of ingredients that are intended to be prohibited or restricted for use in cosmetics, including many personal care products. Under Canadian legislation, cosmetics that contain substances that are harmful to the user cannot be sold.
  • The final screening assessment and the proposed risk management approach documents were published on November 28, 2009. The publication of the proposed risk management approach document will be followed by a 60-day comment period, ending January 27, 2009.

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).
  • Because exposure to benzyl chloride among the general population is low, the Government of Canada is not currently recommending specific actions by Canadians to reduce their exposure.
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