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Ethylene Dibromide

Treatment Processes
Fate and Transport
CAS Number: 106-93-4
Synonyms: 1,2-dibromoethane, EDB, Ethylene bromide, Glycol bromide
Contaminant Type: Chemical

Ethylene dibromide (EDB) is a colorless, heavy liquid that has a mildly sweet, chloroform-like odor [2600,2601]. Prior to the phaseout of leaded gasoline in the United States, EDB was primarily used as an anti-knock compound. Its use as a fumigant for citrus, grain, and soil was discontinued in 1984. It is currently used as a solvent for resins, gums, and waxes; as a chemical intermediate in the synthesis of dyes and pharmaceuticals; and as a precursor in the synthesis of vinyl chloride [2600]. It continues to be used as an anti-knock additive in aviation fuels [2601]. 

EDB is released during the use, storage, and transport of leaded gasoline, as well as during any spills; from its former use as a pesticide; and wastewater and emissions from processes and waste waters of the chemical industries that use it. When soil and climatic conditions are favorable, EDB may get into drinking water by runoff into surface water, or by leaching into groundwater [2601]. Also, EDB appears to be formed naturally by microalgae growth and has been detected in ocean waters and air [2600].

EDB exhibits low-to-moderate soil adsorption and, therefore, will leach quickly into groundwater. It is very stable towards hydrolysis and is more likely to undergo aerobic biodegradation in the soil rather than abiotic degradation. In aquatic environments, the primary removal process for EDB is evaporation: the volatilization half-life from a typical lake or river is 1–5 days. Biodegradation of EDB in groundwater can be slow (with half-lives in months), and biotic hydrolysis only readily occurs in the presence of a natural catalyst such as hydrogen sulfide. In the ambient atmosphere, EDB exists as a vapor, and, although it undergoes degradation in a reaction with photochemically produced hydroxyl radicals, it is likely to be persistent [2600].

EDB is highly toxic to humans, and acute exposure to high concentrations of EDB can cause collapse or death. Based on human and animal studies, EDB absorption into the body occurs rapidly through the oral, dermal, and inhalation routes. Animal studies have shown long term exposure may cause damage to the liver, kidneys and testes by inhalation, ingestion, or dermal contact. EDB is a human and animal reproductive toxicant and has been demonstrated to adversely affect reproductive health. EDB is classified as likely to be carcinogenic to humans via both the oral and inhalation routes of exposure based on strong evidence of carcinogenicity in animals and inconclusive evidence of carcinogenicity in an exposed human population [2600]. The maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) for EDB is zero. EPA has set an enforceable maximum contaminant level (MCL) for EDB at 0.00005 mg/L or 50 ppt [2601].

2600 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; 2004; Toxicological Review of 1,2-Dibromoethane in Support of Summary Information on the Integrated Risk Information System; Washington D.C.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; EPA 635/R-04/067
2601 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; 2018; Ethylene Dibromide - Ground Water & Drinking Water - Fact Sheets; U.S. EPA; https://safewater.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/sections/202366378. Accessed May 30, 2018