Exposure to ethylene glycol monobutyl ether and related workers habits in an ink factory
Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (EGBE), one of the ethylene glycol ethers (EGEs), is often used as a solvent in surface coatings such as spray lacquers, quick-dry lacquers, enamels, varnishes, varnish removers, latex paint and printing inks; is also used as a cleaning fluid owing to its miscibility with both water and a large number of organic solvents (NIOSH, 1990). Unlike ethylene glycol monomethyl ether (EGME) and ethylene glycol monoethyl ether (EGEE), another two of the EGEs, EGBE has not been shown to be reprotoxic; rather, its main toxicological effect is hemolytic anemia (Lanigan, 1999; NTP, 1989). This lower toxicity has resulted in EGBE being the most widely used of all EGEs worldwide. However, in addition to the well-known development of hemolytic anemia resulting from EGBE exposure (both animal experiments and human studies), further harmful effects have been assessed and reported in recent years (Hughes, et al., 2001). The studies mentioned above are mainly based on animal experiments and the ingestion/inhalation of high doses of EGBE. Few occupational studies have discussed the exposure scenarios and relevant health effects upon workers chronically exposed to low levels of EGBE. Long-term exposure studies of rats and mice have reported both hemolytic and carcinogenic effects, raising concern that EGBE might be a human carcinogen (Gift, 2005); unfortunately, the effects of long-term occupational exposure to EGBE in humans have not been well-studied.