March 26, 2020

ATSDR Finalizes Toxicological Profiles for Methyl Bromide, Other Chemicals

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has published a final toxicological profile for bromomethane, or methyl bromide, a gas primarily used to make other chemicals. According to ATSDR, the production and use of bromomethane was phased out in the United States in 2005, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows only limited uses of bromomethane because it depletes the ozone layer. Another use of bromomethane is as a fumigant to control pests in agriculture and shipping. ATSDR stresses that workers are more likely than members of the general population to be exposed to bromomethane by inhalation. The agency explains that workers who breathed bromomethane experienced health effects such as lung damage and signs of nervous system damage, including dizziness, muscle weakness, and seizures. According to the toxicological profile, bromomethane vapor can also irritate workers’ eyes and skin.

Though bromomethane is banned for use in residential settings in the U.S., it was used as a fumigant by a pest control company at a resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands in March 2015, severely sickening a family of four. Three of the family members required endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation. More information about the incident is available in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

New final toxicological profiles are also available for 2-hexanone, which is no longer made or used in the U.S. due to its harmful health effects; bromodichloromethane, a colorless, nonflammable liquid produced in small quantities in the U.S. for use in laboratories or to make other chemicals; and the defoliant tribufos, or S,S,S-tributyl phosphorotrithioate, which is used to remove the leaves from plants.

ATSDR’s “Tox Profiles” characterize the toxicological and adverse health effects information for hazardous substances. Each peer-reviewed profile identifies and reviews the key literature that describes a substance's toxicological properties. Information on the potential for human exposure; chemical and physical properties; regulations and guidelines; and production, import, use, and disposal can also be found in ATSDR’s toxicological profiles. A full list of toxic substances with published profiles is available on the agency’s website.