Methyl tertiary hexyl ether and methyl tertiary octyl ether as gasoline oxygenates : Assessing risks from atmospheric dispersion and deposition

Methyl tertiary hexyl ether (MtHxE) and methyl tertiary octyl ether (MtOcE) are currently being developed as replacement oxygenates for methyl tertiary butyl ether (MtBE) in gasoline. As was the case with MtBE, the introduction of these ethers into fuel supplies guarantees their introduction into the environment as well. In this study, a screening-level risk assessment was performed by comparing predicted environmental concentrations (PEC) of these ethers to concentrations that might cause adverse effects to humans or ecosystems. A simple box model that has successfully estimated urban air concentrations of MtBE was adapted to predict atmospheric concentrations of MtHxE and MtOcE. Expected atmospheric concentrations of these ethers were also estimated using the European Union System for the Evaluation of Substances (EUSES) multimedia fate model, which simultaneously calculates PECs in the various environmental compartments of air, water, soil, and sediment. Because little or no data are available on the physicochemical, environmental, and toxicological properties of MtHxE and MtOcE, estimation methods were used in conjunction with EUSES to predict both the PECs and the concentrations at which these ethers might pose a threat. The results suggest that these ethers would contaminate the air of a moderately sized U.S. city (Boston, MA) at levels similar to those found previously for MtBE. The risk assessment module in EUSES predicted risk characterization ratios of 10-3 and 10-2 for MtHxE and MtOcE, respectively, in Boston, and 10-2 and 10-1 in very large urban centers, suggesting that these ethers pose only a minimal threat to ecosystems at the anticipated environmental concentrations. The assessment also indicates that these compounds are possible human carcinogens and that they may be present in urban air at concentrations that pose an unacceptable cancer risk. Therefore, testing of the toxicological properties of these compounds is recommended before they replace MtBE in gasoline.

Published in:
Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, 56, 10, 1484-1492

 Record created 2010-01-08, last modified 2018-03-17

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