1,3-Butadiene is a non-corrosive colourless gas with an odour similar to that of gasoline. It is emitted as a byproduct of incomplete combustion of organic matter, and is produced commercially for use in the chemical polymer industry. 1,3-Butadiene may also be referred to as butadiene or vinylethylene. There are numerous other synonyms and product names; see Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) for more information.
1,3-Butadiene has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans, with sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. 1,3-Butadiene causes cancer of the haematolymphatic organs, and this is also supported by sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in animals.
Concurrent exposure to other chemicals complicates analysis of additional adverse health effects related to 1,3-butadiene. However, cardiovascular and respiratory effects have been reported. Low levels of exposure may result in sensory irritation while short term high levels may damage the central nervous system. Dermal exposure to liquid 1,3-butadiene can cause irritation and frostbite. Animal data indicates potential for reproductive effects, although there is as yet no evidence in humans
1,3-Butadiene is used primarily to manufacture synthetic elastomers, including polybutadiene rubber used in automobile tires, vehicle parts, and appliance and electrical equipment components; styrene-butadiene rubber used in rubber products and chewing gum; styrene-butadiene latex, used in coated paper, certain types of flooring, adhesives, and tire cord latex; and nitrile-butadiene rubber, a copolymer of butadiene and acrylonitrile used in products that require oil resistance, such as hoses and belting.
Polybutadiene is the largest end use of butadiene elastomers in Canada. Production of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) polymers in Canada ceased in 1994.
Other uses include neoprene rubber, ABS resins, co-polymer resins and latexes for paints, coatings and adhesives, oil lubricant additives, and rocket propellants. A non-polymer use is for producing adiponitrile, a nylon intermediate.
1,3-Butadiene has also been used to produce the agricultural fungicides captan and captafol.
Canadian Production and Trade
Styrene-butadiene latex is produced in a plant located in Varennes, Quebec. A nitrile-butadiene plant was formerly located in Sarnia, but was recently closed.
Production and Trade
78,385 t of 'buta-1,3-diene and isoprene'
4,371 t of 'buta-1,3-diene and isoprene'
t = tonne
Inhalation is the most important route of occupational exposure. The potential for exposure exists in petroleum refining, as well as during production of purified butadiene monomer, various butadiene-based rubber and plastic polymers, and rubber and plastic products, such as tyres, hoses and a variety of molded objects.
CAREX Canada estimates that approximately 4,000 Canadians are exposed to 1,3-butadiene in their workplaces. The largest industrial groups exposed are chemical, rubber, and plastic product manufacturing industries. The largest exposure groups by occupation are machine operators in the rubber and plastic processing industry.
The most important route of exposure for the general Canadian population is inhalation.
CAREX Canada’s environmental estimates indicate that 1,3-butadiene levels in indoor air result in an increased lifetime risk of cancer at a population level (moderate data quality). Factors contributing to indoor levels of butadiene include cigarette smoke, proximity to a vehicle exhaust source (traffic or garage), cooking activity involving heated fats and oils (such as Chinese rapeseed, peanut, soybean and canola oils), wood burning, and natural gas/oil space heating.
CAREX Canada estimates that levels of 1,3-butadiene may also be sources of elevated cancer risk (high data quality) in outdoor air. Factors contributing to levels in outdoor air include forest fires, vehicle emissions, aircraft, marine and rail transportation, waste incinerator emissions, and thermal breakdown of butadiene-based rubbers and plastics.[2,3] Newer vehicles with catalytic converters emit less 1,3-butadiene than older vehicles.
Butadiene is not persistent in air and has an atmospheric half life of a few hours, depending on weather conditions. Levels in ambient air have been measured at several sites across Canada since 1987. Data published in 2006 indicates that the average 1,3-butadiene concentration from 2000-2003 was 0.22µg/m3 and 0.02 µg/m3 for urban and rural sites, respectively. The highest recorded 24-hour concentration was 2.58 µg/m3, measured near an industrial point source in Sarnia in 2001. Other industrial point sources where concentrations may be high include Yellowknife, Fort McMurray, Port Mellon, Montreal/Varennes, and Oakville. However, industrial emissions have declined since 2004.
There is currently little available data to indicate whether butadiene is present in drinking water, food, and soil in Canada. The potential for butadiene to migrate to food from containers exists, but is expected to be minimal; this route of exposure is likely much less important than inhalation.
Searches of environmental and consumer product databases yielded the following results on current potential for exposure to 1,3-butadiene in Canada:
NPRI and US Household Products Database
Substance name: '1,3-Butadiene'
Released into Environment
Manufacturing (basic chemical; resin, synthetic rubber, and fibres; petroleum and coal product), oil and gas extraction, pulp, paper and paperboard mills (21 facilities)
Sent to off-site recycling
US Household Products 2016
Roofing and cement adhesives
t = tonne
Our team has performed a detailed scan of exposure control resources and assembled a compilation of key publications and resources. These are organized by type of exposure (environmental or occupational) and by specificity (general or carcinogen-specific). Please visit our Exposures Reduction Resources page to view.
We also recommend exploring the Prevention Policies Directory, a freely-accessible online tool offering information on policies related to cancer and chronic disease prevention. Providing summaries of the policies and direct access to the policy documents, the Directory allows users to search by carcinogen, risk factor, jurisdiction, geographical location, and document type. Click here to learn more about policies specific to 1,3-butadiene in the Directory. For questions about this resource, please contact a member of the Prevention Team at the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer at firstname.lastname@example.org.