Alcohols Group - information sheet
- Draft Screening Assessment for the Alcohols Group (published on March 12, 2022 for a 60-day public comment period ending on May 11, 2022)
- Risk Management Scope for Alcohols Group - Methanol, 1-Butanol, and Benzenemethanol (Benzyl Alcohol) (Published on March 12, 2022 for a 60-day public comment period ending on May 11, 2022). Risk management is proposed.
- Associated notice: Canada Gazette, Part I, Vol. 156, No. 11 – March 12, 2022.
On this page
- About these substances
- Human and ecological exposure
- Key health and ecological effects (hazard)
- Risk assessment outcomes
- Preventive actions and risk reduction
- Related resources
- The Government of Canada conducts risk assessments of substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) to determine whether they present or may present a risk to human health or to the environment.
- The risks posed by a substance are determined by both its hazardous properties (potential to cause adverse human health or ecological effects) and the amount or extent of exposure to people and the environment.
- When needed, the Government implements risk management measures under CEPA 1999 and other federal acts to help prevent or reduce potential harm.
- The ecological hazard and exposure potentials of the substances in the Alcohols Group were classified using the Ecological Risk Classification of Organic Substances (ERC) Approach.
- The Government is proposing that methanol, 1-butanol, and benzenemethanol (referred to by its common name, benzyl alcohol) may be harmful to human health due to:
- Inhalation exposure to methanol from the use of certain paint and varnish removers
- Inhalation exposure to 1-butanol from the use of certain lacquer products
- Dermal exposure to benzyl alcohol from the use of certain cosmetics, natural health products and non-prescription drugs.
- Methanol and 1-butanol are associated with developmental effects and benzyl alcohol is associated with effects on the nervous system.
- The Government is proposing regulatory or non-regulatory actions to help reduce potential human inhalation or dermal exposures to methanol, 1-butanol, and benzyl alcohol from certain products. Proposed risk management details are found below.
- Some substances in this group are considered to be low hazard to human health; however, others are associated with health effects, including the potential to cause cancer (1,3-DCP). These other 18 substances in the group are not proposed to be harmful to human health and none of the 21 substances in this group are proposed to be harmful to the environment, at levels of exposure considered in the assessment.
About these substances
- The summary of publications for the Alcohols Group includes details on the substance names and Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Numbers (CAS RNs).
- The screening assessment focuses on 21 substances referred to collectively as the Alcohols Group, under the third phase of the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP).
- The substances in this group are being assessed in subgroups (long-chain alcohols, C6 alcohols, and aromatic alcohols) or as individuals (common names: lanolin alcohols; sodium methanolate; methanol; 1-butanol; 2-ethyl-1-hexanol; 1,3-dichloro-2-propanol (also referred to as 1,3-DCP); and allyl alcohol).
- All of these substances are industrial chemicals. Some also occur naturally in the environment and in foods, such as methanol and benzyl alcohol, which are also permitted food additives. 1,3-DCP can be formed during the processing of certain foods.
- According to information gathered by the Government, in Canada, many of the substances in this group are used in products available to consumers, such as cleaning products, cosmetics, natural health products, non-prescription and prescription drugs, automotive care products, and paints and coatings. Some are also permitted food additives, may be used as food flavouring agents, may be used in the manufacture of food packaging materials or in incidental additives that are used in food processing establishments.
- Alcohol substances in this group are also used to make other chemicals (for example, as solvents) or in mining.
Human and ecological exposures
- Canadians may be exposed to substances in the Alcohols Group from their use in various products available to consumers, as described above. Exposure may occur due to the presence of the substances in the environment (for example, air) and may occur through inhalation (breathing in), dermal (skin) contact and oral ingestion (from food).
- According to information considered under the ERC Approach, all of the substances in the Alcohols Group were identified as having low ecological exposure potentials, with the exception of methanol. Methanol was identified as having high exposure potential due to its large volume of use and ability to remain in air for a long-time.
Key health and ecological effects (hazard)
- Several substances in this group have been reviewed internationally by various organizations, including the European Chemicals Agency, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and United States Environmental Protection Agency, among others. These reviews and assessments were used to inform the health effects characterization in the screening assessment.
- The substances in the long-chain alcohols subgroup; lanolin alcohols; and sodium methanolate were considered to be low hazard to human health.
- The critical effects considered for the health assessment of methanol were developmental effects, including skeletal malformations (abnormal development of bones) and decrease in brain weight, as shown in laboratory studies.
- Developmental effects were identified as the critical effects for the assessment of 1-butanol.
- Effects on the nervous system were the critical effects considered for benzyl alcohol, which is in the aromatic alcohols subgroup.
- 1,3-DCP was reviewed by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives and classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as "possibly carcinogenic to humans". Carcinogenicity (potential to cause cancer) as well as increased liver and kidney weights were the critical effects used for the draft assessment of this substance.
- Further details on which critical effects were considered for each substance or subgroup in the Alcohols Group are available in the screening assessment.
- According to information considered under the ERC Approach, all of the substances in the Alcohols Group were identified as having low ecological hazard potential, except for the following:
- three of the long-chain alcohols were identified as having moderate hazard potential due to their potential to bioaccumuate
- lanolin alcohols were identified as having high hazard potential due to their potential ecotoxicity
- 1,3-DCP was identified as having moderate hazard potential due to its increased ecotoxicity.
Risk assessment outcomes
- As a result of the draft screening assessment, it was determined that the levels of methanol inhalation exposure from the use of certain paint and varnish removers may pose a risk to human health.
- A comparison of levels to which Canadians may be exposed to 1-butanol through inhalation from the use of lacquer, and levels associated with critical health effects, indicates that 1-butanol may also pose a risk to human health.
- Similarly, a comparison of levels to which Canadians may be exposed through the skin (dermal) to benzyl alcohol from the use of certain cosmetics, natural health products and non-prescription drugs (namely sunscreens, body cream/moisturizer, face cream, and deodorant/antiperspirant)), and levels associated with health effects, indicates that benzyl alcohol may pose a risk to human health.
- Human exposures through food and the environment were considered, and no risk to human health was identified from these sources.
- On the basis of the information in the draft screening assessment, the risk to human health from the other 18 substances in the group is expected to be low at current levels of exposure.
- According to the outcome of the ERC Approach, these 21 alcohol substances are considered unlikely to be causing ecological harm.
Proposed screening assessment conclusions
- The Government is proposing that 3 substances in the group (methanol, 1-butanol, and benzyl alcohol) may be harmful to human health at levels of exposure considered in the assessment. It is also proposed that the other 18 substances in the Alcohols Group are not harmful to human health at levels of exposure considered in the assessment.
- The Government is also proposing that none of the 21 substances in the Alcohols Group are entering the environment at levels that are harmful.
- It is proposed that methanol meets the persistence but not the bioaccumulation criteria and that 1-butanol and benzyl alcohol do not meet the persistence or bioaccumulation criteria as set out in the Persistence and Bioaccumulation Regulations of CEPA 1999.
Preventive actions and risk reduction
- If the proposed conclusions are confirmed in the final screening assessment, the Government will consider adding methanol, 1-butanol, and benzyl alcohol to Schedule 1 to CEPA 1999, also called the List of Toxic Substances. Adding a substance to the list does not restrict its use, manufacture or import. Rather, it enables the Government to take risk management actions under CEPA 1999.
- Publication of the risk management scope aims to inform stakeholders of proposed risk management options and initiate discussions about their development. The Government is considering the following risk management actions to address the identified potential risks to human health:
- taking regulatory or non-regulatory action to help reduce inhalation exposure to methanol from paint/varnish remover products available to consumers to levels that are protective of human health.
- taking regulatory or non-regulatory actions to help reduce inhalation exposure to 1-butanol from lacquer products available to consumers to levels that are protective of human health. Actions may aim to lower the concentration of 1-butanol in lacquer products.
- taking measures to help reduce dermal exposures to benzyl alcohol from certain natural health products and non-prescription drugs by revising the listing for benzyl alcohol in the Natural Health Products Ingredients Database (NHPID)
- Taking measures to help reduce dermal exposures to benzyl alcohol from certain cosmetics by describing this substance as a prohibited or restricted ingredient on Health Canada's Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist. The Hotlist is used to communicate that certain substances may not be compliant with requirements of theFood and Drugs Act or the Cosmetic Regulations. Under Canadian legislation, cosmetics that contain substances that are harmful to the user cannot be sold.
- Information is being sought by the Government to inform risk management decision-making. Details can be found in the risk management scope, including where to send information during the public comment period, ending May 11, 2022.
- Risk management actions may evolve through consideration of assessments and risk management options for other substances. This is to ensure effective, coordinated, and consistent risk management decision-making.
- Although 1,3-DCP is not considered to be harmful to human health or the environment at current levels of exposure, this substance has effects of concern due to its potential to cause cancer. There may be a risk if exposures to 1,3-DCP were to increase.
- For this reason, follow-up activities to track changes in exposure or commercial use patterns for 1,3-DCP are being considered.
- Stakeholders are encouraged to provide any information pertaining to 1,3-DCP that may help inform the choice of follow-up activities, during the 60-day public comment period on the assessment. This could include information on new or planned import, manufacture or use of the substance.
Where to find updates on risk management
- Additional information on the risk management of substances addressed under the CMP is available.
- Use the Substances Search tool to find substances that are referenced in certain legislative or regulatory instruments or on Government of Canada websites.
- Some of the substances in the Alcohols Group are found in products available to consumers. Canadians should follow any safety warnings and directions related to the product and dispose of products responsibly.
- Methanol in particular, also referred to as methyl alcohol, is acutely toxic if ingested. Poisoning and even death can occur from ingesting methanol. Certain consumer chemical products that contain methanol are subject to labelling and packaging requirements of the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations, 2001 (CCCR, 2001) under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA). Also, other products, such as cosmetics and natural health products that contain methanol have packaging requirements to help protect children from unintentional ingestion.
- Cosmetic products must include a list of all ingredients on the product label using the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) system. Benzyl alcohol is an INCI name.
- Benzyl alcohol has been identified in vaping products. Vaping products (also known as electronic cigarettes) may represent an additional source of exposure to this substance. The assessment of risk to Canadians from this use, including risk relative to that associated with conventional cigarettes, and possible options to mitigate risk associated with these products, are being addressed through a separate legislative framework.
- Visit Do it for a Healthy Homefor information on chemical safety in and around the home, including on methanol, 1-butanol, and benzyl alcohol (for consumers).
- The screening assessment focused on potential risks from exposure of the general population of Canada, rather than occupational exposure. Hazards related to chemicals used in the workplace are defined within the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). For information concerning workplace health and safety and what steps to take in the workplace, Canadians should consult their employer or the Occupational Health and Safety Regulator in their jurisdiction.
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