Carbon Black Profile

Carbon Black Profile

General Information

Carbon black is essentially made of elemental carbon.[1] Composed of aggregated carbon particles arranged in chains, it has a large surface area capable of absorbing fluids and reinforcing materials.[2] 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.[1,2] 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.[3]

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.[1] 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.[1] Isolated epidemiological results indicate potential excess risks of urinary, bladder, kidney, stomach, and esophageal cancers following exposure to carbon black.[1]

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.[4] Carbon black “tattoos” may result when carbon black particles become embedded in the skin and cause discolouration.[4]

Regulations and Guidelines

Occupational exposure limits (OEL) [5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19]

Canadian JurisdictionsOEL (mg/m3)
Canada Labour Code3 [i]
AB, NB, QC3.5
BC, MB, NL, NS, ON, PE3 [i]
NT, NU, SK, YT3.5
7 [stel]
Other JurisdictionsOEL (mg/m3)
ACGIH 2020 TLV3 [i]
mg/m3 = milligrams per cubic metre
i = inhalable particulate matter
stel = short term exposure limit (15 min. maximum)
ACGIH = American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists
TLV = threshold limit value

Canadian environmental guidelines and standards*

Ontario Ambient Air Quality Criteria**24 hour: 10 µg/m32016[20]
Ontario’s Air Pollution – Local Air Quality Regulation24 hour standard: 10 µg/m3; Prohibited discharge into the air if the concentration of carbon black exceeds the standard2020[21]
PMRA List of FormulantsList 4B. List 4B contains formulants,  some of which may be toxic, for which there are sufficient data to  reasonably conclude that the specific use pattern of the pest control product will not adversely affect public health and the environment.2020[22]
List of Permitted Food AdditivesPermitted for use as a colouring agent2017[23]
*Standards are legislated and legally enforceable, while guidelines (including Ontario ambient air quality criteria) describe concentrations of contaminants in the environment (e.g. air, water) that are protective against adverse health, environmental, or aesthetic (e.g. odour) effects
**protection from soiling
µg/m3 = micrograms per cubic metre
PMRA = Pest Management Regulatory Agency

Canadian agencies/organizations

Health CanadaDSL – high priority substance with greatest potential for exposure2006[24]
CMP ChallengeBatch 121999[25]
DSL = domestic substance list
CMP = Chemicals Management Plan

Carbon black was not included in other Canadian government guidelines, standards, or chemical listings reviewed.

Main Uses

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.[1,26] The remaining 1% is used in various other applications including coatings, paper, and plastics.[1,26]

Canadian Production and Trade

Production and trade

Export149,270 t of ‘carbon: carbon black and other forms of carbon’2015[27]
Import81,053 t of ‘carbon: carbon black and other forms of carbon’2015[27]
t = tonnes

Environmental Exposures Overview

As of 2013, Canadian monitoring data for carbon black in air, water, soil, or sediment could not be located.[28] 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.[2] 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.[28] 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.[28] Exposure may also occur through carbon black’s use in food additives and food packaging, but are likely low.[29]

Release of carbon black is not reportable to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) in Canada.[30] A search of a consumer product database yielded the following results:

US Household Products Database

US Household Products 2016[31]
Search TermQuantityProduct Type
‘carbon black’>100Auto paints and primers, gasket makers,
shoe polish, printer toners and inks, wood finishers,
urethane patch kits

Occupational Exposures Overview

Inhalation is the most important route of occupational exposure to carbon black.[32]

The highest levels of exposure occur in occupations involved in producing carbon black, particularly packers and site cleaners.[1] 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.[1]

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.


1. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Monograph summary, Volume 93 (2010) (PDF)
2. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Monograph summary, Volume 65 (1996) (PDF)
3. US National Library of Medicine. Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) (Search term: ‘Carbon black’)
10. Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Regulation 5,12 Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (2018)
11. Government of the Northwest Territories. Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, R-039-2015 (2020) (PDF)
13. The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII). Government of Nunavut’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, Nu Reg 003-2016 (2010)
15. Government of Prince Edward Island. Occupational Health and Safety Act Regulations Chapter 0-1 (2013) (PDF)
17. Government of Saskatchewan. The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996 (2016) (PDF)
18. The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII). Yukon’s Occupational Health Regulations, O.I.C. 1986/164 (2020) (PDF)
19. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Annotated PELs (2020)
20. Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. Ontario’s Ambient Air Quality Criteria (2019)
24. Health Canada. Prioritization of the DSL (2006)
26. International Carbon Black Association. What is Carbon Black (2014)
27. International Trade Centre. Trademap (Free subscription required)
28. Environment and Climate Change Canada. Screening Assessment for the Challenge Carbon Black (2013)
29. Government of Canada. Carbon black (2013)
31. US Household Products Database (HPD). Household Products (Search term: ‘Carbon black’)
32. World Health Organization (WHO). Health Effects of Carbon Black (2012) (PDF)


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