Epichlorohydrin is a colorless liquid with an irritating, pungent odour.[2,3] It does not occur naturally in the environment; it is a chemical intermediate used to make a wide variety of products. Epichlorohydrin may also be referred to as chloropropylene oxide or 1-chloro-2,3-epoxypropane. There are numerous other synonyms and product names; see the Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) for more information.
Epichlorohydrin has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as Group 2A, probably carcinogenic to humans, with sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in animals. Studies of mice and rats show increased digestive, respiratory, nasal cavity, and dermal cancers following exposure to epichlorohydrin. One epidemiological study of exposed factory workers showed an excess of respiratory cancers; however there was concomitant exposure to another potentially carcinogenic substance. Some epidemiological studies have shown possible excesses in lung and central nervous system cancers; however results were inconsistent and based on small study numbers.
Additional health effects following short-term exposure to epichlorohydrin may include skin irritation and damage to the liver, kidneys, and/or central nervous system. Long-term exposure may result in eye, skin, and stomach irritation, chromosome aberrations, adverse changes in blood, and cancer.
stel = short term exposure limit (15 min. maximum)
em = exposure must be reduced to the minimum
ACGIH = American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists
TLV = threshold limit value
Canadian Environmental Guidelines
BC's Contaminated Sites Regulation, BC Reg 375/96
Sets soil standards for: Agricultural soil: 7.6 μg/g Urban park and residential soil: 26 μg/g Commercial and industrial soil: 73 μg/g
Sets vapour standards for:
Agricultural, urban park, residential settings: 8.5 μg/m3 Commercial settings: 25 μg/m3 Industrial settings: 75 μg/m3
(Vapours derived from soil, sediment, or water)
Health Canada's List of Permitted Food Additives
Cosmetic Ingredients Hotlist
μg/g = micrograms per gram
μg/m3 = micrograms per cubic meter
Epichlorohydrin was not included in other Canadian government environmental guidelines reviewed.[12,13,14,15,16,17]
DSL - high priority substance with greatest potential for exposure
Challenge to Industry
Batch 2 (health for 'oxirane (chloromethyl)')
Schedule 1 ('oxirane (chloromethyl)')
National Classification System for Contaminated Sites
Rank = "High hazard", potential human carcinogen
DSL = domestic substance list
CEPA = Canadian Environmental Protection Act
Epichlorohydrin was not included in other Canadian government chemical listings reviewed.[22,23] The 2008 screening assessment concluded that epichlorohydrin meets the CEPA criteria for danger to human life or health (based on the critical effect of carcinogenicity), and also for persistence in air. Epichlorohydrin did not meet the criteria for bioaccumulation potential as stated in the Persistence and Bioaccumulation Regulations, nor did it meet the criteria for persistence in water, soil or sediment.
Epichlorohydrin is primarily used to produce epoxy resins for protective linings in food and beverage cans. Epoxy resins are also used in paints and other coatings, structural composites, printed circuit board laminates, semiconductor encapsulants, tooling, molding, casting, and adhesives.[4,5]
Other products manufactured using epichlorohydrin include phenoxy resins used to make thermoplastic polymers; anion exchange resins and flocculants used to treat drinking and waste water; and resins and polymers used to produce textiles, paper, and cellulose products. Epichlorohydrin is also commonly used as a stabilizer, and to produce synthetic glycerol, a component in manufacturing personal care products, drugs, food, and beverages.
Canadian Production and Trade
In 2006, epichlorohydrin was not manufactured in or imported into Canada at amounts exceeding 100 kg per company. It is likely imported into Canada in small quantities as a residual monomer in products containing epichlorohydrin-derived resins.
Production and Trade
Global Annual Production
Not manufactured in Canada above the 100 kg threshold
Export: None recorded
15 t of '1-chloro-2,3-epoxypropane'
t = tonne
Exposure may occur through inhalation, ingestion, or dermal contact when epichlorohydrin is produced and/or synthesized in occupational settings.
CAREX Canada estimates that approximately 6,600 Canadians are exposed to epichlorohydrin in their workplace. Exposure typically occurs in the following industries: automotive repair and maintenance; paint, coating, and adhesive manufacturing; and miscellaneous manufacturing. The largest exposed occupational groups are other labourers in processing, manufacturing, and utilities, followed by motor vehicle body repairers. Other important occupations that are likely exposed to epichlorohydrin in Canada involve aerospace products and parts manufacturing and plastic products manufacturing.
Environmental exposure to epichlorohydrin may occur through inhalation, dermal absorption, or ingestion. Environmental and consumer product exposures in Canada are expected to be very low, since epichlorohydrin is present only as a residual substance. Measured concentrations of epichlorohydrin in the environment, food, or water in Canada were not available.
There is potential for exposure to epichlorohydrin from food in contact with polyamide-epichlorohydrin resin papers and cans lined with epoxy resin coatings. However, estimates for these types of exposures are low. Low levels of epichlorohydrin have been detected in water. Very low levels of epichlorohydrin may contaminate water after it is used in water treatment to remove suspended solids. Contamination is also possible when epoxy resin coatings leach into water.[2,25,26] However, these levels are expected to be very low.
Health Canada predicts that exposure to epichlorohydrin in indoor or ambient air by inhaling emissions from commercial products (such as epoxy resins, adhesives, coatings, and putties) is negligible.
Residual epichlorohydrin in cosmetic products may lead to exposure via inhalation and dermal routes. Although residual concentrations in these products are unknown and exposure cannot be quantified, it is expected to be low.
Epichlorohydrin is reportable to Environment Canada's National Pollutant Release Inventory but no releases have been reported since 2003, when a resin/synthetic rubber company released 0.002 tonnes.
A search for 'epichlorohydrin' in the United States Household Products Database produced the following results:
US Household Products Database
US Household Products 2016
'Bisphenol A, epichlorohydrin polymer, tall oil fatty acids ester'
Spray enamel (aerosol)
'Bisphenol A, epichlorohydrin polymer'
Resins, epoxies, and hardeners
'Bisphenol A, formaldehyde, epichlorohydrin polymer'
'Fatty acids, tall-oil, polymers with bisphenol A, diethylenetriamine, epichlorohydrin and tetraethylenepentamine'
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 epichlorohydrin in 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.