In a Risk Assessment, the toxicity thresholds from hazard assessments are compared with the expected exposure levels. No risk means therefore that the toxicity threshold is well above the expected exposure level.
The EU Risk Assessment Report (EU-RAR) for MTBE clearly shows no expected risks for consumers as there are sufficient risk reduction measures already applied. It is essential to protect workers from repeated skin exposure in order to avoid local skin effects such as defatting and cracking.
The EU-RAR assessment of concentrations of MTBE in water, concluded that they are far below the thresholds to pose any concern to people’s health. This assessment for MTBE is valid for ETBE and TAME as well.
EU-RAR assessment looks into needs for specific measures to limit the risks in relation to the aesthetic quality of ground water. The measures mainly deal with the construction and operation of petrol underground storage tanks and distribution at service stations in order to prevent leakages. The taste and odour threshold of 15 µg/l has been included in water quality regulations in several EU Member States.
The International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that there was no evidence to justify classifying MTBE as a human carcinogen. A number of other well-respected organisations have reached a similar conclusion. The World Health Organisation (WHO) International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) concluded it was unlikely that MTBE alone could cause adverse acute health effects in the general population under common exposure conditions.
TAME and ETBE
Due to its similar chemical structure, and from a comparison of the existing toxicity data, the Finnish Competent Authority concluded that the possible risks from the use of TAME and ETBE were similar to those of MTBE. Furthermore, a report on the required risk reduction measurements was prepared by the relevant Committee of the EU member states, which demanded a European standard for underground storage tanks and mandatory requirements for service stations. EFOA’s MTBE Resource Guide was designed to educate and inform people on the potential groundwater risks and how to deal with them.
As a new substance (= any chemical produced or used after September 18, 1981), TAEE is subject to a full risk assessment outside the REACH timeline.
The hazards and risks of fuel ethers have been comprehensively assessed firstly in the EU Risk Assessments and then with an update to meet the standards required by REACH.