Industrial Chemicals– Possible Carcinogen (IARC 2B)
CAS No. 1333-86-4
Photo: Wikimedia Commons 
IARC Monograph Vol. 93, 2010 (Group 2B)
Carbon black is essentially made of elemental carbon. Composed of aggregated carbon particles arranged in chains, it has a large surface area capable of absorbing fluids and reinforcing materials. Various types of carbon black are manufactured in powder or pellet form; all are insoluble in water and organic solvents, and vary in particle size, surface area per unit mass, and aggregate size.[2,3] Other names for carbon black include acetylene black, channel black, furnace black, lampblack, or thermal black. There are numerous other synonyms and product names; see the Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) for more information.
Carbon black is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as Group 2B, possibly carcinogenic to humans. This classification is based on evidence from animal studies showing that inhalation of carbon black significantly increases the incidence of benign and malignant lung tumours. In humans, excess risk of lung cancer was found in some epidemiological studies, however a dose-response relationship between lung cancer and carbon black exposure has not been clearly identified. Isolated epidemiological results indicate potential excess risks of urinary, bladder, kidney, stomach, and esophageal cancers following exposure to carbon black.
Acute respiratory effects following exposure to carbon black include cough, sputum production, and shortness of breath. Potential chronic effects include reduced lung function, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and fibrosis. Carbon black "tattoos" may result when carbon black particles become embedded in the skin and cause discolouration.
stel = short term exposure limit (15 min. maximum)
ACGIH = American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists
TLV = threshold limit value
Canadian Environmental Guidelines
Ontario Ambient Air Quality Criteria
*24 hour: 10 µg/m3
PMRA List of Formulants
List 2: List 2 contains formulants that are considered potentially toxic, based on structural similarity to List 1 formulants or on data suggestive of toxicity.
List of Permitted Food Additives
Permitted for use as a colouring agent
* protection from soiling
µg/m3 = micrograms per cubic metre
PMRA = Pest Management Regulatory Agency
Carbon black was not included in other Canadian Environmental Guidelines reviewed.[8,9,10,11]
DSL - high priority substance with greatest potential for exposure
DSL = domestic substance list
CMP = Chemicals Management Plan
Carbon black is not included in other environmental regulation guidelines.[13,14,15]
About 90% of carbon black produced is used to reinforce rubber products, predominately tires, and 9% is used as a pigment in inks and paints.[2,16] The remaining 1% is used in various other applications including coatings, paper, and plastics.[2,16]
Canadian Production and Trade
Production and Trade
149,270 t of 'carbon: carbon black and other forms of carbon'
81,053 t of 'carbon: carbon black and other forms of carbon'
t = tonnes
Inhalation is the most important route of occupational exposure to carbon black.
The highest levels of exposure occur in occupations involved in producing carbon black, particularly packers and site cleaners. Occupational exposure may also occur in the rubber industry, mainly in compounding and mixing areas, and in other user industries such as painting and printing.
CAREX Canada has not prioritized carbon black for exposure estimate development. This is because there is a lack of exposure monitoring data in the Canadian Workplace Exposure Database on which to base an estimate.
As of 2013, Canadian monitoring data for carbon black in air, water, soil, or sediment could not be located. Carbon black is emitted into the air by carbon black manufacturers, but modern production plants generally use filters to reduce emissions to under 50 mg/m3. Environmental exposures are considered to be greatest near industrial areas that manufacture carbon black. Exposures may occur through inhalation during the use of consumer products that contain carbon black, such as paints and spray hair dyes. However, since carbon black particles are bound within consumer product materials, exposure from the use of these products is likely limited. Dermal exposure to carbon black from cosmetic products is also unlikely to occur due to the insolubility of carbon black in water, bodily fluids, and organic solvents. Exposure may also occur through carbon black's use in food additives and food packaging, but are likely low. 
Release of carbon black is not reportable to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) in Canada. A search of a consumer product database yielded the following results:
US Household Products Database
US Household Products 2016
Search term: 'carbon black'
Auto paints and primers, gasket makers, shoe polish, printer toners and inks, wood finishers, urethane patch kits
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 carbon black on the Directory. For questions about this resource, please contact a member of the Prevention Team at the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer at email@example.com.