Gasoline Profile

Gasoline Profile

General Information

Gasoline is a colourless, pale brown, or pink volatile liquid that is produced by refining crude petroleum oils.[1] It is a complex mixture of more than 150 chemicals, including mostly hydrocarbons and paraffins, and small amounts of toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, and benzene.[1] Trace amounts of additives can also be found in gasoline, such as antiknock compounds, anti-icing and anti-rust agents, and metal deactivators.[1] Gasoline’s chemical composition depends on factors such as source of the crude petroleum, manufacturer, and time of year.[1] Gasoline may also be referred to as automotive gasoline, petrol or gas.[2] See Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) for more synonyms and product names.[3] CAREX Canada has also produced a profile on Gasoline Engine Exhaust, since it was separately considered by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Gasoline has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as Group 2B, possibly carcinogenic to humans.[4] Some epidemiological studies found elevated risks of cancer at these sites following occupational exposure: pancreas, kidneys, stomach, bladder, testicles, liver, and lymphatic and haematopoietic systems.[4] However, few studies provided sufficient data to identify a dose-response relationship between gasoline exposure and cancer outcome.[4]

There is limited evidence for the carcinogenicity of gasoline in experimental animals. One study found an increased incidence of skin tumours in mice exposed to naphtha, a crude petroleum distillate similar to gasoline.[4] Inhalation studies in mice and rats exposed to gasoline have produced inconsistent results.[4]

Gasoline exposure can cause other harmful effects, usually due to individual chemicals in the gasoline mixture, such as benzene and lead.[1] Health effects include respiratory tract, stomach, and skin irritation as a result of inhalation, ingestion, and handling, respectively.[1] Inhaling gasoline vapours or ingesting large amounts of gasoline may result in acute nervous system effects such as cardiac arrhythmias, dizziness, headaches, coma, respiratory arrest, and death.[1] Chronic exposures may also result in neurologic, developmental, and genotoxic effects.[1]

Regulations and Guidelines

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

Canadian Jurisdictions OEL (ppm)
Canada Labour Code 300
500 [stel]
AB, BC, MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, QC, PE, SK 300
500 [stel]
YT 500
Other Jurisdictions OEL (ppm)
ACGIH 2020 TLV 300
500 [stel]
ppm = parts per million
stel = short term exposure limit (15 min. max)
ACGIH = American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists
TLV = threshold limit value (8 hour maximum)

Canadian agencies/organizations

Agency Designation/Position Year
Health Canada DSL – high priority substance with intermediate potential for exposure 2006[20]
National Classification System for Contaminated Sites Rank = “High hazard” 2008[21]
DSL = Domestic Substances List
Gasoline was not included in other Canadian government guidelines, standards, or chemical listings reviewed.

Main Uses

Gasoline is used primarily as fuel for internal combustion engines.[1]

Gasoline may also be used to extract or dilute essential oils, as a solvent for rubber adhesives, as a detergent for precision instruments, and as a finishing agent for artificial leathers.[3]

Canadian Production and Trade

There are fourteen refineries that produce gasoline in Canada; six of these are located in the Western provinces, four in Ontario, and two each in Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces.[22]

Production and trade

Activity Quantity Year
Canadian production 42,073 ML 2018[23]
Imports 5,760 ML 2020[24]
Exports 8,840 ML 2020[24]
Domestic sales 42,237 ML 2018[23]
ML = Megalitres

Environmental Exposures Overview

Canadians are one of the top consumers of gasoline per capita. In 2011, Canada ranked second in per capita usage of gasoline, using 886 kg/person per year.[25] The general population’s main exposure to gasoline occurs by inhaling gasoline vapours when refuelling automobiles and refuelling or using other gasoline-powered equipment, such as lawnmowers.[1] Exposure may also occur via close proximity to gasoline spills (i.e. off-gassing from soils, or use of contaminated water); after a gasoline spill or leak, some chemical components evaporate, whereas others may dissolve and contaminate groundwater and soil.[1]

Leaking gasoline storage tanks contribute to groundwater contamination in Canada.[26] Corroding underground gasoline tanks, which were installed in large numbers in the 1950s and 1960s, have resulted in an increasing number of leaks in recent decades.[26] This is an issue of particular importance in Atlantic Canada, where groundwater is widely used for drinking via wells.[26]

Exposure to gasoline components may occur by consuming contaminated water. However, most chemicals found in gasoline are removed by municipal drinking water treatment procedures.[1]

When used as a fuel, gasoline produces a number of chemicals that are emitted in engine exhaust. Some of the gasoline used by engines may also vaporize into the air without undergoing combustion.[27]

Since 1990, Canada has prohibited the production, import, and sale of leaded gasoline to minimize the risks of lead exposure from gasoline.[28] Exemptions to this regulation include the use of lead in gasoline for competition vehicles, aviation, farm equipment, boats, and trucks weighing >3,856 kg.[28] Information on lead exposure is available through the carcinogen profile on Lead published by CAREX.

Gasoline is not reportable to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) in Canada.[29]

One household product, gasoline itself, is listed in the US Consumer Product Information Database.[30]

Occupational Exposures Overview

Inhalation is the major route of exposure to gasoline, though exposure through ingestion and dermal contact can also occur.[1]

Occupational exposure to gasoline vapours may occur while producing, transporting, or distributing gasoline.[4]

Those at an increased risk of exposure to gasoline vapors include service station attendants, gasoline tank truck drivers, workers at bulk loading terminals and marine loading docks, workers who remove and service underground storage tanks and gasoline pipelines, workers who clean up gasoline spills and leaks, and refinery workers.[1]

CAREX Canada has not prioritized gasoline 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. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Toxicological Profile for Gasoline (1995) (PDF)
2. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). Chemical Profile for Gasoline (2015)
3. US National Library of Medicine. Hazardous Substances Data Bank (Search term: ‘Gasoline’)
4. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Monograph summary, Volume 45 (1989) (PDF)
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, 2020 (2020) (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)
21. Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). National Classification System for Contaminated Site (2008) (PDF)
22. Canada Energy Regulator. Where does Canada’s gasoline come from? (2019)
26. Environment and Climate Change Canada. Groundwater Contamination (2010)
27. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Diesel and Gasoline Engine Exhausts and Some Nitroarenes (2014)
29. Environment and Climate Change Canada. National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) Data Search (Substance name: ‘Gasoline’)
30. Consumer Product Information Database (CPID). What’s in it? (2022)


Other Resources

  1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). ToxFAQ for Chromium (2008) (PDF)
  2. US Environmental Protection Agency. Health Assessment Document for Chromium (1984)

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