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 and 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.
As a result of the draft screening assessment, the Government is proposing that the 21 substances in the Poly(alkoxylates/ethers) Group are not harmful to human health or the environment at levels of exposure considered in the assessment.
About these substances
This screening assessment focuses on 21 substances referred to collectively under the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) as the Poly(alkoxylates/ethers) Group. The substances are further organized as subgroups: poly(propylene glycol) (PPG), paraformaldehyde (PF), alcohol ethoxylate sulfates (AESs), alcohol ethoxylates (AEs), octylphenol ethoxylates (OPEs), and alkyl amine ethoxylates (ANEOs).
These 21 substances were identified as a priority for assessment through the Domestic Substances List (DSL) categorization. One substance in this group, Amines, C14-18 and C16-18-unsatd. alkyl, ethoxylated (CAS RN 681555-39-5), was also identified as a priority for risk assessment as part of the Identification of Risk Assessment Priorities process in 2015.
These substances were previously evaluated under the Second Phase of Polymer Rapid Screening, which identified the substances in this group for further assessment due to potential human health and/or ecological risks. In accordance with the screening assessment the potential for PPG, PF, and ‘Amines, tallow alkyl, ethoxylated’ (POEA; CAS RN 61791-26-2 of the ANEOs subgroup) to cause harm to human health, and for AESs, AEs, OPEs, and ANEOs to cause ecological harm were evaluated in detail.
According to information gathered by the Government, these substances do not occur naturally in the environment.
PPG is used in Canada as a defoaming agent (hinders the formation of foam in liquids), and also as an absorbency aid, surfactant, lubricant, and hardener/resin for adhesive systems. This substance may be used in coatings for paper and cans, ultrafiltration/reverse osmosis (UF/RO) water treatment systems, laminated films, inks, textile dyes, paint, food processing, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, toys, and personal care products.
PF is primarily used as a component in industrial manufacturing. In Canada, PF may be used in adhesives, sealants, agricultural products, coatings, inks, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, toys, and other products available to consumers.
The 3 AESs considered in the assessment are anionic surfactants (surfactants with a negative charge) primarily used in products available to consumers and in pulp and paper manufacturing.
The AEs and OPEs considered in this assessment are non-ionic surfactants (surfactants that carry no charge) used, respectively, in cleaning products available to consumers, and paints and coatings.
The 6 ANEOs considered in this assessment are amine surfactants (surfactants that carry a positive charge) primarily used in oil and gas extraction, metal working fluids, and products available to consumers.
Various poly(alkoxylate/ether) polymers in this screening assessment are registered active ingredients and formulants used in pest control products. These uses are regulated by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) under the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA). As such, this screening assessment only considers the potential effects of poly(alkoxylate/ether) polymers on human health and the environment as a result of non-pesticidal uses of the substance.
Human and ecological exposures
Due to its physical/chemical properties and current use patterns, exposure of Canadians to PPG and PF is expected to be minimal.
PF is a potential source for the release of formaldehyde, however PF is consumed during the reaction and only trace amounts of unreacted PF or formaldehyde are expected to be present. In addition, the release of formaldehyde from PF is very slow at ambient temperatures; therefore air concentrations of formaldehyde would remain low.
Exposure of Canadians to AESs, AEs, and OPEs was characterized using the approach outlined in the second phase of polymer rapid screening, and was found to have high exposure resulting from their use in products available to consumers intended for consumption or application to the body.
Five of the 6 ANEOs were previously screened through the second phase of polymer rapid screening, which identified them as having either low exposure to Canadians or low human health hazard;
The sixth substance in the ANEOs subgroup, POEA, was found to have moderate exposure to Canadians due to its widespread applications.
Exposure of PPG and PF to the environment was assessed in the second phase of polymer rapid screening.
AESs, AEs, OPEs, and ANEOs may be released to the environment while being used in the formulation of products available to consumers, and through consumer release of products containing the substances.
Key health and ecological effects (hazard)
The substances in the subgroups PPG, PF, AES, AE, and OPE are considered to have low hazard to human health.
Through the rapid screening process, 5 of the 6 substances in the ANEOs subgroup were identified as having low hazard to human health. POEA was identified as having a moderate hazard profile to human health.
PPG and PF do not contain any reactive functional groups associated with ecological concerns.
As described in the draft screening assessment, the substances in the AES, AE, OPE, and ANEO subgroups are associated with adverse effects to fish, invertebrates, and algae at certain levels.
Risk assessment outcomes
Considering all information presented in the human health assessment, the risk to Canadians from substances in the Poly(alkoxylate/ethers) Group is considered to be low.
Considering all information presented in the ecological assessment, the substances in the Poly(alkoxylates/ethers) Group are considered unlikely to cause ecological harm.
As a result of the draft screening assessment, the Government is proposing that the substances in the Poly(alkoxylates/ethers) Group are not harmful to human health at current levels of exposure, and that these substances are not entering the environment at levels that are harmful to the environment.
It is noted in the Priority Substances List Assessment Report for Nonylphenol and its Ethoxylates (NPEs), that NPEs and OPEs are structurally similar and have similar physical-chemical properties. Additionally, both NPEs and OPEs have similar ecotoxicological hazard and their degradation products have similar endocrine (estrogen) disrupting potential. Therefore, from an environmental perspective, the 2 OPE surfactants considered in this assessment would not be considered suitable substitutes to NPEs.
Substances in the Poly(alkoxylates/ethers) Group may be found in products available to consumers. Canadians should follow any safety warnings and directions on product labels and dispose of products responsibly.
Canadians who may be exposed to these substances in the workplace can 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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