This is a fact sheet about a chemical that may be found in some public or
private drinking water supplies. It may cause health problems if found
in amounts greater than the health standard set by the United States
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
What is Epichlorohydrin and how is it used?
Epichlorohydrin is a colorless organic liquid with a pungent, garlic-like
odor. The greatest use of epichlorohydrin is used to make glycerin and
as a building block in making plastics and other polymers, some of which
are used in water supply systems. It is also used in the paper and drug
industries and as an insect fumigant.
The list of trade names given below may help you find out whether you
are using this chemical at home or work.
Trade Names and Synonyms:
Why is Epichlorohydrin being regulated?
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires
EPA to determine safe levels of chemicals in drinking water which do or
may cause health problems. These non-enforceable levels, based solely on
possible health risks and exposure, are called Maximum Contaminant Level
The MCLG for epichlorohydrin has been set at zero because EPA
believes this level of protection would not cause any of the potential
health problems described below.
There are currently no acceptable means of detecting
epichlorohydrin in drinking water. In this case, EPA is requiring water
suppliers to use a special treatment technique to control its amount in
water. Since epichlorohydrin is used in drinking water treatment
processes, it is being controlled simply by limiting its use for this
These drinking water standards and the regulations for ensuring
these standards are met, are called National Primary Drinking Water
Regulations. All public water supplies must abide by these regulations.
What are the health effects?
Short-term: EPA has found epichlorohydrin to potentially cause the
following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above
the MCL for relatively short periods of time: skin irritation;
detrimental effects on liver, kidneys, central nervous system.
Long-term: Epichlorohydrin has the potential to cause the
following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL:
stomach, eye and skin irritation; chromosome aberrations; adverse
changes in blood; cancer.
How much Epichlorohydrin is produced and released to the environment?
Production and imports of epichlorohydrin in the mid-1980s totalled 511
million lbs. The main source of concern for epichlorohydrin in drinking
water is from its use as a clarifier during water treatment. When added
to water, it coagulates and traps suspended solids for easier removal.
However, some epichlorohydrin may not coagulate and may remain in the
water as a contaminant.
What happens to Epichlorohydrin when it is released to the environment?
Epichlorohydrin readily evaporates from near-surface soils and surface
waters. It will not bind to sediments in water bodies. If spilled on
land, it may leach into the groundwater but it is easily broken down by
a number of chemical reactions. It will not accumulate in aquatic life.
How will Epichlorohydrin be detected in and removed from my drinking
The regulation for epichlorohydrin became effective in 1992. EPA requires
your water supplier to show that when epichlorohydrin is added to water,
the amount of uncoagulated epichlorohydrin is less than 2 ppb.
How will I know if Epichlorohydrin is in my drinking water?
If the treatment technique for epichlorohydrin fails, the system must
notify the public via newspapers, radio, TV and other means. Additional
actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be
required to prevent serious risks to public health.
This is a factsheet about a chemical that may be found in some
public or private drinking water supplies. It may cause health problems
if found in amounts greater than the health standard set by the United
States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Drinking Water Standards:
Mcl: Treatment Technique
Epichlorohydrin Releases to Water and Land, 1987 to 1993 (in pounds):
TOTALS (in pounds)||
Top Five States|
Plastics and resins
Note: This fact sheet is part of a larger publication
adapted from U.S. EPA publication: EPA National Primary Drinking Water
* Water/Land totals only include facilities with releases greater
than a certain amount - usually 1000 to 10,000 lbs.