MTBE Is Not Hazardous to
Inaccurate Reports Portray MTBE as Potential Carcinogen
Media reports and state officials frequently indicate that Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE), a cleaner-burning fuel additive used to reduce harmful air pollution in Reformulated Gasoline (RFG) is a potential human carcinogen. These claims are unequivocally false.
MTBEs vehicle performance contributions, emissions reduction benefits, and stabilizing influence on the nations gasoline supply have been well documented. More importantly, the health effects associated with its use in gasoline have been extensively studied by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state health agencies, international health organizations, and leading research universities. These studies confirm that MTBE reduces toxic air pollutants such as benzene (a known human carcinogen); reduces carbon monoxide and greenhouse gas emissions; and substantially surpasses all Clean Air Act requirements for the reduction of smog forming compounds.
MTBE is one of the most widely studied chemicals in commerce (including pharmaceuticals). The overwhelming majority of scientific evaluations to date have not identified any health-related risks to humans from the intended use of MTBE in gasoline. Furthermore, MTBE does not accumulate in the body and it has not been shown to impair fertility, or damage a developing fetus or the genetic structure of cells.
MTBE, like most chemicals, has the ability to cause some injury at extremely high dosages. Extensive research indicates that the MTBE doses required to produce illness in laboratory animals are thousands of times greater than those to which humans could conceivably be exposed. Numerous government and world-renowned independent health organizations to date have found no sufficiently compelling reason to classify MTBE as a possible cancer-causing agent for humans:
- The European Union Risk Assessment on MTBE concluded in December 2000 that MTBE is not a human carcinogen.
- The Department of Health & Human Services, National Toxicology Program voted in December 1998 not to list MTBE in its 9th Report on Carcinogens.
- The World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, determined in November 1998 that MTBE is not classifiable as a human carcinogen.
- The National Research Council, in September 1998, concluded that there was little likelihood that humans would contract kidney tumors from exposure to MTBE.
- Californias Science Advisory Borad for Proposition 65, determined in December 1998 that MTBE could not be considered carcinogenic or a developmental or reproductive toxicant.
- The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, in October 1998, determined that RFG with MTBE reduced cancer risk by 12% over the 1995-1999 period and anticipated this reduction to grow to 20% beginning in 2000.
In summary, our current understanding of the available health and toxicity information on MTBE demonstrates that MTBE does not represent threat to human health from exposure at the extremely low levels (i.e., parts per billion) reported in the environment as a result of MTBEs current use in gasoline. Not only do studies on the potential cancer risk of gasoline constituents report that MTBE is not classifiable as a carcinogen, some, in fact, have concluded that RFG with MTBE actually reduces the relative cancer risk to humans compared to conventional gasoline. This means that gasoline with MTBE, because it contains lower concentrations of such known human carcinogens as benzene, is safer than gasoline without MTBE.