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 or 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 4 substances in the Ethers Group are associated with health effects; however, at levels of exposure considered in the assessment, the Government concluded that they are not harmful to human health or to the environment.
Diethyl ether (DEE), diphenyl ether (DPE), and dimethyl ether (DME) naturally occur at low levels in some foods. Dipropylene glycol methyl ether (DPGME) does not occur naturally in the environment.
According to information gathered by the Government, these substances are mainly used in Canada in may products available to consumers, including air care (e.g., air fresheners); automotive, aircraft and transportation (e.g., solvents used in the manufacturing of vehicles or functional fluids contained within components of a vehicle); cleaning and furnishing care; fuels and related products; oil and natural gas extraction; as well as paints and coatings. They may be used in medicinal or non-medicinal ingredients in disinfectant, human or veterinary drug products, as non-medicinal ingredients in natural health products, cosmetics, various other products available to consumers, and as formulants (not active ingredients) in pest control products. Some of these substances may also be used in food packaging materials, food processing aids, and food flavouring agents.
Human and ecological exposures
The screening assessment indicated that Canadians may be exposed to substances in the Ethers Group from environmental sources (for example, indoor air) and food. The general population may also be exposed to these substances from the use of products available to consumers; for example:
DEE from the use of body lotions, corn and callus removers, and automotive starting fluids
DPE from air fresheners and hand creams
DME from spray sunscreens
According to the information considered under the ERC Approach, DEE, DPE and DPGME were identified as having low ecological exposure potential. However, DME was classified has having a high ecological exposure potential based on a long half-life in air and a large annual import quantity.
A comparative approach using similar chemicals, called read-across, was used to inform the human health assessment when data on the chemicals under assessment was limited.
Based on laboratory studies, the most critical effects for DEE were changes in body weight and food consumption with oral exposure, and liver toxicity with exposure by the inhalation route. Changes in body weight were the main critical effects for both oral and long-term inhalation exposures to DPE. The critical effect for DME was decreased survival rates in rats with long-term exposure via inhalation. DPGME was not identified as inducing any adverse effects in any of the available studies.
According to information considered under the ERC Approach, all 4 substances were identified as having a low ecological hazard potential.
Consideration of subpopulations who may be more susceptible or highly exposed
There are groups of individuals within the Canadian population who, due to greater susceptibility or greater exposure, may be more vulnerable to experiencing adverse health effects from exposure to substances.
Certain subpopulations are routinely considered throughout the screening assessment process, such as infants, children, and people of reproductive age. For instance, age-specific exposures are routinely estimated and developmental and reproductive toxicity studies are evaluated for potential adverse health effects. These subpopulations were taken into consideration in the risk assessment outcomes for the Ethers Group.
Risk assessment outcomes
On the basis of the information presented in the screening assessment, the risk to human health from the 4 substances in the Ethers Group is low.
Based upon the outcome of the ERC Approach, these 4 substances are considered unlikely to be causing ecological harm.
Screening assessment conclusions
The Government concluded that DEE, DPE, DME and DPGME are not harmful to human health at levels of exposure considered in the assessment.
The Government also concluded that DEE, DPE, DME and DPGME are not entering the environment at levels that are harmful.
Ethers may be found in products available to consumers. Canadians should follow any safety warnings and directions related to the product and dispose of products responsibly.
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