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Metabolism of Ether Oxygenates Added to Gasoline

Jun-Yan Hong
et al.
Wolfgang Dekant
et al.
Janet Benson
et al.
May 2001
Research Report 102

The three research projects contained in this report were initiated to increase our knowledge of the metabolism of ether oxygenates in humans and other species. Adding oxygenates, such as MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether), to gasoline promotes more efficient combustion and reduces emission of carbon monoxide, ozone-forming hydrocarbons, and some air toxics, by increasing the oxygen content of the fuel. On the other hand, some oxygenates may increase emission of toxic compounds such as formaldehyde or acetaldehyde, and increased use of MTBE in fuel in the early 1990s led to complaints of unpleasant odor, headaches, and burning of eyes and throat. The studies were conducted by Dr Jun-Yan Hong (the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School), Dr Wolfgang Dekant (University of Würzburg), and Dr Janet Benson (Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute).

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

Health Effects Institute
April 1996
Special Report

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.