Ethylbenzene -  information sheet

Ethylbenzene - information sheet
(Benzene, ethyl-)

CAS Registry Number 100-41-4

Updated May 28, 2019:

The Final Screening Assessment for Ethylbenzene was published on April 30, 2016, under the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP). The assessment is summarized in this information sheet (formerly public summary) and has not changed. The section in this information sheet entitled "Preventive actions and reducing risk" communicates updates regarding follow up activities for ethylbenzene, namely:

  • Distribution of an information gathering initiative to inform the potential development of Significant New Activity (SNAc) provisions. 

On this page


  • The Government of Canada conducted a science-based evaluation, called a screening assessment, to address the potential for harm to Canadians and to the environment from ethylbenzene.
  • Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), the risk posed by a substance is determined by considering both its hazardous properties (its potential to cause adverse human health or ecological effects) and the amount of exposure there is to people or the environment. A substance may have hazardous properties; however, the risk to human health or to the environment may be low depending upon the level of exposure.  
  • The Government concluded that ethylbenzene is not harmful to human health or the environment at levels of exposure current at the time of the assessment.

About this substance

  • The screening assessment summarized here focused on the substance benzene, ethyl- also referred to as ethylbenzene. This substance was assessed under the CMP.
  • Ethylbenzene occurs naturally in the environment in crude oil and some natural gas streams, and as a result of incomplete combustion of natural materials, making it a component of forest fire smoke.
  • Ethylbenzene is also synthetically produced.
  • According to information gathered by the Government, at the time of the assessment, ethylbenzene was used in Canada as a component in automotive and aviation fuels including gasoline, in the manufacture of styrene, and in hydraulic fracturing fluids.
  • Ethylbenzene was also used as a solvent in various products available to consumers such as paints, stains, and automotive cleaners.

Human and ecological exposures

  • Available information at the time of the assessment indicated that exposure of Canadians to ethylbenzene was expected from the environment (for example, air, soil, and drinking water), food, and from the use of products available to consumers, such as liquid and aerosol coatings, certain paints, paint removers, lacquers, stains, caulks and sealants, varnishes and concrete floor sealers.
  • Cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust and gasoline were also sources of exposure for ethylbenzene.
  • The assessment took into consideration the results of human biomonitoring surveys conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Biomonitoring measures substances in blood, urine or breast milk. Finding the substance in the body does not necessarily mean that it is causing harm. Harmful effects will depend on the levels and the properties of the substances. The information on measured levels in humans is important to estimating exposure.
  • Ethylbenzene may be released to the environment during its manufacture, use, and disposal (for example, use as a solvent or in the production of other chemicals).

Key health and ecological effects (hazard)

  • At the time of the assessment, the important or “critical” effects used for characterizing the risk to human health from ethylbenzene were carcinogenicity (potential ability to cause cancer), and non-cancerous effects primarily on the auditory system, and on the liver, kidney and pituitary glands.
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified ethylbenzene as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
  • Ethylbenzene was identified to be moderately toxic to aquatic organisms.

Risk assessment outcomes

  • Based upon a comparison of levels to which Canadians may be exposed to ethylbenzene and levels associated with health effects, it was determined that the risk to human health from this substance is considered to be low.
  • Considering all the information presented in the ecological assessment, it was determined that there is low risk of harm to the environment from ethylbenzene.
  • The Government of Canada published the Final Screening Assessment on Ethylbenzene on April 30, 2016.

Screening assessment conclusions

  • The Government concluded that ethylbenzene is not harmful to human health at levels of exposure that were current at the time of the assessment.
  • The Government also concluded that ethylbenzene is not entering the environment at levels that are harmful to the environment.

Preventive actions and reducing risk

  • Although ethylbenzene is not considered to be harmful to human health at levels of exposure at the time of the assessment, this substance is considered to have a health effect of concern due to its potential carcinogenicity. There may be a concern if exposures were to increase.
  • Therefore, Health Canada has initiated information gathering to inform the potential development of Significant New Activity provisions, through a voluntary questionnaire that was distributed to certain stakeholders in May 2019. For more information, contact the Substances Management Information Line.

Related information

  • Ethylbenzene may be found in products available to consumers. Canadians should follow any safety warnings and directions on product labels and dispose of products responsibly.
  • Tobacco smoke is also a source of ethylbenzene. Canadians are reminded that they should not smoke. Read how you can quit smoking now or speak with your doctor.
  • Canadians who may be exposed to ethylbenzene in the workplace should consult with their employer and an occupational health and safety (OHS) representative about safe handling practices, applicable laws, and requirements under OHS legislation and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).

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