The Potential Health Effects of Oxygenates Added to Gasoline. A Review of the Current Literature

Special Report, April 1996

A Special Report of the Institute's Oxygenates Evaluation Committee.

Oxygenated fuel (usually referred to as oxyfuel) was formulated to reduce carbon monoxide emissions and contains at least 2.7% oxygen by adding methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) or ethanol. Reformulated gasoline was formulated to help reduce ground-level ozone concentrations and contains at least 2% oxygen, has a reduced content of benzene and other aromatic compounds, and produces limited emissions of total air toxics. The introduction of fuels containing oxygenates elicited concerns from workers and the general public in some areas, including reports of unpleasant odors, headaches, or other symptoms attributed to the fuels, and questions about their effects on the cost of gasoline, the performance of engines, and fuel economy. This Special Report summarizes an intensive review of (1) the existing science of the health effects of oxygenates, (2) the risk evaluations done by the EPA in 1993 and 1994, and (3) in a qualitative way, the health effects of exposure to the new additives as they relate to the health effects of other pollutants whose levels in emissions change when fuels containing oxygenates are used.


- Statement from the HEI Board of Directors

- Contributors to the Project

- Executive Summary

- Preface

- Introduction

- General Properties of Oxygenates

- Exposure Assessment

- Potential Health Effects of Oxygenates

- Potential Health Effects of Other Pollutants

- Overal Assessment and Conclusions

- Presearch Priorities for Oxygenates

- Appendices

- Literature Cited

- Abbreviations and Conversion Factors

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