Ethene public summary

CAS Registry Number 74-85-1

What is it?

  • Ethene, also known as ethylene, is a gas that occurs naturally in the environment. It is a high volume industrial chemical that is manufactured for use in certain industrial settings.

How is it used?

  • Worldwide, ethene is primarily used as a monomer in plastic production, to produce other chemicals and as industrial fuel gas.
  • In Canada, ethene is used to ripen bananas and other tropical fruits post-harvest; it is also used for the degreening of citrus.
  • Based on the most recent data, ethene is manufactured in high volumes in Canada and imported into the country.

Why did the Government of Canada assess it?

  • Prior to the assessment, ethene was identified as a substance with high potential for human exposure.
  • Ethene was not considered to be a 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?

  • Exposure of the general population of Canada to ethene occurs predominantly through inhalation.
  • Canadians may be exposed to ethene from its presence in cigarette smoke, and other combustion activities.

How is it released to the environment?

  • Ethene is a common gas that occurs naturally in the environment. It is produced by plants and other organisms. It is also produced in wood burning, from volcanic activities and natural gas leakage.
  • In addition, ethene is a high volume industrial chemical and may be released to the environment from various industrial processes, as well as non-industrial sources such as the burning of fossil fuels, emissions from older cars, and as a component of cigarette smoke.

What are the results of the assessment?

  • The Government of Canada conducted a science-based evaluation of ethene, called a screening assessment.
  • Screening assessments address the potential for harm to the general population of Canada and to the environment.
  • Results of the final screening assessment indicate that ethene does not remain in the environment for a long time or accumulate in organisms.
  • Furthermore, the quantity of ethene that has the potential to be released to the environment is below the level expected to cause harm to organisms.
  • The Government of Canada has therefore concluded that ethene is not entering the environment at levels that constitute a danger to the environment.
  • The quantity of ethene that is present in all sources of exposure is below the level expected to cause harm to human health.
  • The Government of Canada has therefore also concluded that ethene is not harmful to human health at current levels of exposure.
  • Hazards related to chemicals used in the workplace should be classified accordingly under the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).

What is the Government of Canada doing?

  • The Government of Canada published the Final Screening Assessment for Ethene on May 21, 2016.
  • Based on the conclusion of the final screening assessment, the Government of Canada proposes that no further action be taken on ethene.

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). Ethene is not a concern for the environment or human health, including from its natural presence in plants, including fruits and vegetables, at current levels of exposure.
  • Tobacco smoke is also a source of ethene. Canadians are reminded that they should not smoke and should avoid second-hand smoke. For more information about how to quit smoking and how to protect your family from second-hand smoke, visit the Smoking and Tobacco Web site or speak with a doctor.
  • Canadians who may be exposed to ethene in the workplace should consult with their employer and occupational health and safety representative (OHS) about safe handling practices, applicable laws and requirements under the OHS legislation and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).
  • As a general precaution, Canadians are reminded when using any product to carefully follow any safety warnings and directions, and to dispose of the products appropriately.
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