January 25, 2024

Two Final Tox Profiles Plus Two Drafts Newly Available from ATSDR

Final toxicological profiles for the substances vinyl chloride and nitrobenzene and draft tox profiles for chloroethane and chloroform are now available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Vinyl chloride has made headlines over the past year as one of the hazardous substances on board the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in February 2023 near East Palestine, Ohio. ATSDR’s tox profile for vinyl chloride was last updated in 2006. The substance is used by the plastics industry to produce polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, and workers and others who live near plastic manufacturing facilities or hazardous waste sites may be exposed to vinyl chloride through inhalation. Skin absorption is another possible route of exposure for workers. Liver damage and cancer are among the many potential health effects of vinyl chloride exposure.

The new version of the final tox profile for the synthetic chemical nitrobenzene represents the only update since the tox profile was first released in 1990. The document explains that nitrobenzene is primarily used to produce other chemicals during the manufacture of products including explosives, rubbers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, pharmaceuticals, and dyes. It’s also used as a solvent in petroleum refineries. Workers in industries that use nitrobenzene are at increased risk of exposure to the chemical through dermal exposure and inhalation of workplace air. According to ATSDR, nitrobenzene exposure can cause the human body to not get enough oxygen to organs and tissues, which can lead to serious health problems like dizziness and respiratory distress.

New draft tox profiles are available for the gas chloroethane and for chloroform, a colorless liquid. Chloroethane is used as a solvent as well as in the production of cellulose, dyes, medicinal drugs, and formed plastics. Examples of present uses of chloroform include as a solvent and in the manufacture of other chemicals. Workers in industries that use or manufacture chloroform may be at increased risk for exposure, while those working in printing and publishing, chemical manufacturing, oil and gas production, petroleum refining, and pulp and paper may be exposed to higher levels of chloroethane. Comments on the two draft profiles are due by April 18. More information on submitting comments is available in the Federal Register.

Tox profiles are peer-reviewed evaluations of toxicological information on hazardous substances. Each tox profile includes discussions about the health effects of a substance, its relevance to public health, its potential for human exposure, regulations and guidelines related to the substance, and other information. A full list of toxic substances with published profiles is available on ATSDR website.

Related: Vinyl chloride is among five chemicals EPA plans to prioritize for risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act.