Benzene, 1,2-dimethoxy-4-(2-propenyl)- (Methyl eugenol)

CAS Registry Number 93-15-2

What is it?

  • Benzene, 1,2-dimethoxy-4-(2-propenyl)-, also known as methyl eugenol, is a chemical that occurs naturally in a variety of plants, including various herbs.

How is it used?

  • Methyl eugenol is present in the essential oils of several plant species. These oils are extracted for use as fragrance ingredients and softeners in personal care products and cosmetics and as a flavour ingredient in food and beverages.
  • Essential oils and herbs that contain methyl eugenol are also used in natural health products.
  • Methyl eugenol may also be present in citronella oil, which is an active ingredient found in certain personal insect repellents.
  • Methyl eugenol is not manufactured in or imported into Canada in its pure form above the reporting threshold.

Why did the Government of Canada assess it?

  • Prior to the assessment, methyl eugenol was identified as a potential concern for 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 moderate potential for exposure (not including workplace exposures) to the general population of Canada.
  • Methyl eugenol 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?

  • Canadians may be exposed to low levels of methyl eugenol from certain types of essential oils found in personal care products, cosmetics and citronella oil personal insect repellents.
  • Canadians may also be exposed to methyl eugenol in plant essential oils or parts such as leaves, stems and seeds that naturally contain methyl eugenol and can be used as flavouring ingredients in foods.

How is it released to the environment?

  • There are no known industrial sources of release of methyl eugenol to the Canadian environment. However, methyl eugenol may potentially be released to the environment through consumer and commercial use of products containing this substance.

What are the results of the assessment?

  • The Government of Canada has conducted a science-based evaluation of methyl eugenol, called a screening assessment.
  • Screening assessments address potential for harm to the general population of Canada (not including workplace exposures) and the environment.
  • The Government of Canada has concluded that methyl eugenol may be considered to be harmful to human health.
  • However, there are no human studies to indicate that the presence of methyl eugenol in food, whether added as a flavour ingredient or naturally present, poses a risk to Canadians.
  • Additionally, methyl eugenol is not expected to remain in the environment for a long time, to accumulate in organisms or cause harm to organisms; therefore, the Government of Canada has concluded that methyl eugenol 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?

  • The application of the Significant New Activity (SNAc) provisions to this substance will be recommended. This would require that any proposed new manufacture, use or import be subject to further assessment, and would determine if the new activity requires further risk management consideration.
  • The amount of methyl eugenol in certain essential oils should be the level outlined in 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. Non-natural sources of methyl eugenol cannot be intentionally added to cosmetics.
  • The Government of Canada will propose a phase out plan for personal insect repellents containing citronella oil (which contains methyl eugenol), if further information to support their continued safety is not provided.
  • The Government of Canada has recently completed consultations with the food industry about the uses of methyl eugenol as a flavour and/or the use of essential oils or plant parts that naturally contain methyl eugenol as flavouring ingredients in foods offered for sale in Canada. Analysis of this data will be used to determine what if any risk management strategies may be required to address the use of methyl eugenol in foods.
  • The final screening assessment and the proposed risk management approach documents were published on September 18, 2010. The publication of the proposed risk management approach document will be followed by a 60-day comment period, ending November 17, 2010.

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).
  • As a general precaution, Canadians are reminded when using any product to carefully follow any safety warnings and directions.
  • Canadians who handle methyl eugenol 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.

Page details

Date modified: