1,3-Butadiene is a chemical made from the processing of petroleum. Most of the 1,3-Butadiene manufactured is used in the production of synthetic rubber. It is also used in the production of plastics and acrylics. These synthetic materials are used to manufacture automotive tyres and tyre products, automotive hoses, belts, seals, and gaskets. It is also used as a chemical intermediate in the production of some fungicides, and in the manufacture of latex adhesives, nylon carpet backing, paper coatings, pipes, conduits, electrical components and luggage. Small levels of 1,3-Butadiene are found in petrol.
Substance name: 1,3-Butadiene (vinyl ethylene)
CASR number: 106-99-0
Molecular formula: C4H6
Synonyms: Butadiene, vinyl ethylene, biethylene, pyrrolyene, Buta-1,3-diene, bivinyl, alpha-gamma-butadiene, erythrene, divinyl, trans-butadiene, buta-1,3-dieen
Colourless gas with a mild aroma like petrol. It is not soluble in water, but is soluble in most organic solvents.
Melting Point: -108.9°C
Boiling Point: -4.4°C
Vapour Density: 1.88
Non-corrosive, explosive, flammable.
The National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) holds data for all sources of 1,3-Butadiene emissions in Australia.
Exposure to the gas can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. Breathing very high levels of 1,3-Butadiene for a short time can cause central nervous system damage, blurred vision, nausea, fatigue, headache, decreased pulse rate and pressure and unconsciousness. Long term exposures at lower levels have shown increases in heart and lung damage.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies 1,3-Butadiene as a 'probable human carcinogen'. Worksafe Australia categorises 1,3-Butadiene a 'probable human carcinogen'.
Entering the body
1,3-Butadiene will enter the body if we breathe in contaminated air.
Workers in the industries that use or produce 1,3-Butadiene are at risk of exposure. The dominant exposure for smokers is likely to be tobacco smoke. For non-smokers, the dominant exposure is likely to occur when using consumer products containing 1,3-butadiene, especially if ventilation is poor. The next most significant route of exposure to 1,3-Butadiene for most members of the general public is through breathing air in and around heavy traffic areas. People may also be exposed to 1,3-Butadiene by exposure to air from production and processing facilities using 1,3-Butadiene.
Workplace exposure standards
Safe Work Australia sets the workplace exposure standard for 1,3-butadiene through the workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants:
- Maximum eight hour time weighted average (TWA): 10 parts per million (22 mg/m3)
These standards are only appropriate for use in workplaces and are not limited to any specific industry or operation. Make sure you understand how to interpret the standards before you use them.
Drinking water guidelines
There is no guideline for 1,3-butadiene in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
1,3-Butadiene has moderate acute (short-term) toxicity to aquatic life. It has slight chronic (long-term) toxicity to aquatic life. There is not enough information to predict additional short or long-term effects of 1,3-Butadiene on plants, birds, or other animals. It is not expected to accumulate in fish. Animal studies have reported development effects, such as skeletal abnormalities and decreased foetal weights and reproductive effect, including an increased incidence of shrinkage of the ovaries and testicles. Animal studies have also reported tumours at a variety of sites from inhalation of 1,3-Butadiene.
Entering the environment
Industrial emissions of 1,3-Butadiene can produce elevated, but still low level concentrations in the atmosphere around the source. Motor vehicles may also produce elevated levels of 1,3-Butadiene in areas of higher traffic. Tobacco smoke is the primary source of 1,3-Butadiene indoors. Because of its short life expectancy in the atmosphere 1,3-Butadiene is expected to be confined to the local area within which it is emitted.
Where it ends up
It quickly evaporates to a gas if released as a liquid. It then decomposes quickly in air in sunlight. In sunlight it should almost all be broken down in about one day. When it is not sunny it may take as long as a few weeks to breakdown.
No national guidelines.
The primary stationary sources of 1,3-Butadiene are petroleum refining, manufacturing of synthetic materials and oil and gas extraction. These all emit to air.
Diffuse sources, and industry sources included in diffuse emissions data
Smoking tobacco, agricultural burning, bush or forest fires result in emissions to air.
1,3-Butadiene is emitted to air as a product of incomplete combustion in bush or forest fires, and the burning of biomass (wood, leaves, agricultural burning), including tobacco leaves.
Motor vehicles emit 1,3-Butadiene to air.
In almost all consumer products produced using 1,3-Butadiene, it has been reacted and is no longer available as 1,3-Butadiene. However, the burning of many consumer products will release 1,3-Butadiene. The burning of petrol (driving), leaves, or tobacco will release 1,3-Butadiene to air.
Sources used in preparing this information
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (1997), ToxFAQS 1,3-Butadiene (accessed, March, 1999)
- Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) (1992), Australian Water Quality Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Waters.
- CalEPA Air Resources Board Toxic Air Contaminant Summary 1,3-Butadiene (accessed, March, 1999)
- ChemFinder WebServer Project (1995), Butadiene (accessed, March, 1999)
- Environmental Defense Fund (1998), 1,3-Butadiene: The Chemical Scorecard: (accessed, March, 1999)
- Environmental Health Center, a division of the National Safety Council, Environment Writer – Chemical Backgrounders 1,3-Butadiene (March, 1999) (accessed, March, 1999)
- Meagher, D (1991), The Macmillan Dictionary of The Australian Environment, Macmillan Education Australia Pty Ltd.
- New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (1995), Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet, 1,3-Butadiene, PO Box 368, Trenton, NJ.
- National Environment Protection Council (1998a), National Environment Protection Measure for the National Pollutant Inventory (accessed, March, 1999)
- National Environment Protection Council (1998b), National Environment Protection Measure for Ambient Air Quality. (accessed, March, 1999)
- New Jersey Department of Health, Right to Know Program (1986), TRIFacts, 1,3-Butadiene (accessed, March, 1999)
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- US Department of Health and Human Services (1990), NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, Publication No. 90-117.
- US Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (May, 1998), United Air Toxics Website 1,3-Butadiene (accessed, March, 1999)
- Worksafe Australia (1996), Hazardous Substance 1,3-Butadiene (accessed, March, 1999)
- Safe Work Australia, Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants, accessed June 2021.
- National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011) - Updated October 2017, accessed May 2018