Glycol ethers : a ubiquitous family of toxic chemicals. A plea for REACH regulation

Abstract : Glycol ethers (GE) are chemicals used since the 1930s as solvents in paints, inks, varnishes, and cleaning agents, mainly in water-based products, cosmetics, and drugs. World production approximates 1 million tons. Nineteen GE are produced or imported each year; over 1000 tons in European Union (EU) have been classified as high production volume chemicals (HPVCs). First animal data were published in 1971 and 1979 showing severe reprotoxicity for some GE. Two alerts were launched in the United States in 1982 and 1983, but the first partial GE regulation only occurred in 1993 in the EU. Although these chemicals may expose a very large population, basic toxicity data, more especially carcinogenicity, are still lacking (3/32 GE). However, experimental data were sufficient to lead developmental toxicity risk assessment since the;early 1980s. Risk indices over 1000 have been calculated for consumers and workers exposed to reprotoxic GE in domestic and industrial activities. The first ban was decided in 1999 in France, but was only for drugs and cosmetics. Not surprisingly, since the late 1980s, human studies have found results similar to those in animal data: spontaneous abortions, malformations, testicular toxicity, and hematotoxicity. Despite this highly coherent set of data, and although substitution products are available, reprotoxic GE have been and still remain widely used in the world. The case of GE shows the failure of the present system based on a posteriori risk assessment. This pleads for the change of paradigm through the European REACH regulation based on the "No data, no market" principle. Ethics in REACH management should also be considered.
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André Cicolella. Glycol ethers : a ubiquitous family of toxic chemicals. A plea for REACH regulation. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Wiley, 2006, 1076 (1), pp.784-789. ⟨10.1196/annals.1371.049⟩. ⟨ineris-00963037⟩

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