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Toxicol Sci. 2000 Feb;53(2):194-201.

Biotransformation and kinetics of excretion of ethyl tert-butyl ether in rats and humans.

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Institut für Toxikologie, Universität Würzburg, Germany.


Ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE) may be used in the future as an additive to gasoline to increase oxygen content and reduce tailpipe emissions of pollutants. Therefore, widespread human exposure may occur. To contribute to the characterization of potential adverse effects of ETBE, its biotransformation was compared in humans and rats after inhalation exposure. Human volunteers (3 males and 3 females) and rats (5 males and 5 females) were exposed to 4 (4.5+/-0.6) and 40 (40.6+/-3.0) ppm ETBE for 4 h in a dynamic exposure system. Urine samples from rats and humans were collected for 72 h at 6-h intervals, and blood samples were taken in regular intervals for 48 h. In urine, ETBE and the ETBE-metabolites tert-butanol (t-butanol), 2-methyl-1,2-propane diol, and 2-hydroxyisobutyrate were quantified; ETBE and t-butanol were determined in blood samples. After the end of the exposure period to inhalation of 40-ppm ETBE, blood concentrations of ETBE were found at 5.3+/-1.2 microM in rats and 12.1+/-4.0 microM in humans. The ETBE blood concentrations, after inhalation of 4-ppm ETBE, were 1.0+/-0.7 microM in rats and 1.3+/-0.7 microM in humans. ETBE was rapidly cleared from blood. After the end of the 40-ppm ETBE exposure period, the blood concentrations of t-butanol were 13.9+/-2.2 microM in humans and 21.7+/-4.9 microM in rats. After 4-ppm ETBE exposure, blood concentrations of t-butanol were 1.8+/-0.2 microM in humans and 5.7+/-0.8 microM in rats. t-Butanol was cleared from human blood with a half-life of 9.8+/-1.4 h in humans after 40-ppm ETBE exposure. In urine samples from controls and in samples collected from the volunteers and rats before the exposure, low concentrations of t-butanol, 2-methyl-1,2-propane diol, and 2-hydroxyisobutyrate were present. In the urine of both humans and rats exposed to ETBE, the concentrations of these compounds were significantly increased. 2-Hydroxy-isobutyrate was recovered in urine as the major excretory product formed from ETBE; t-butanol and 2-methyl-1,2-propane diol were minor metabolites. All metabolites of ETBE excreted with urine were rapidly eliminated in both species after the end of the ETBE exposure. Excretion half-lives for the different urinary metabolites of ETBE were between 10.2 and 28.3 h in humans and 2.6 and 4.7 h in rats. The obtained data indicate that ETBE biotransformation and excretion are similar for rats and humans, and that ETBE and its metabolites are rapidly excreted by both species. Between 41 and 53% of the ETBE retained after the end of the exposure was recovered as metabolites in the urine of both humans and rats.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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