ToxFAQs™ for for 2,3-Benzofuran
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This fact sheet answers the most frequently
asked health questions about 2,3-benzofuran. For more information,
you may call the ATSDR Information Center at 1-888-422-8737. This fact sheet is one in a series of summaries about hazardous substances and their health effects. It is important you understand this information because this substance may harm you. The effects of exposure to any hazardous substance depend on the dose, the duration, how you are exposed, personal traits and habits, and whether other chemicals are present.
Exposure to 2,3-benzofuran is most likely to occur from breathing contaminated air at the workplace. Animal studies have shown effects on the liver, kidneys, lungs, and stomach from exposure to high levels of 2,3-benzofuran. This chemical has been found in at least 11 of 1,416 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency.
What is 2,3-benzofuran?
2,3-Benzofuran is a colorless, sweet-smelling,
oily liquid made by processing coal into coal oil. It may
also be formed during other uses of coal or oil.
2,3-Benzofuran is not used for any commercial
purposes, but the part of the coal oil that contains 2,3-benzofuran
is made into a plastic called coumarone-indene resin. This
resin resists corrosion and is used to make paints and varnishes.
The resin also provides water resistance and is used in coatings
on paper products and fabrics. It is used as an adhesive in
food containers and some asphalt floor tiles.
The resin has been approved for use in
food packages and as a coating on citrus fruits. We do not
know how often the resin is used or whether any 2,3-benzofuran
in the coating or packaging gets into the food.
What happens to 2,3-benzofuran when it enters the environment?
- Very little is known about the stability or breakdown
of 2,3-benzofuran or of the coumarone-indene resin.
- 2,3-Benzofuran may enter the air, water, and soil during
its manufacture, use, or storage at hazardous waste sites.
- 2,3-Benzofuran may escape to the air near industrial or
- It does not readily dissolve in water, but may enter the
groundwater near manufacturing or hazardous waste sites.
- Limited information indicates that it will move into soil
and sediment from water, but more information is needed.
- 2,3-Benzofuran is not expected to accumulate in fish or
aquatic animals to any great extent.
- One study reported detecting 2,3-benzofuran in human breast
milk, indicating that the mother had been exposed.
How might I be exposed to 2,3-benzofuran?
- Breathing contaminated air or touching the chemical in
- Breathing contaminated air around manufacturing or hazardous
- Eating foods from packaging material that contain coumarone-indene
resins, but not much is known about how much gets into the
- Smoking cigarettes.
- Drinking contaminated water near manufacturing or hazardous
- Drinking contaminated human breast milk.
How can 2,3-benzofuran affect my health?
Very little is known about the possible
harmful effects of 2,3-benzofuran to human health. There are
no studies that have looked at the effects in people from
exposures to air, water, or food, or through skin contact.
There are some studies in animals from exposures in food or
Rats and mice that ingested high levels
of 2,3-benzofuran over a short time had liver and kidney damage.
Those exposed over a long time to moderate levels had liver,
kidney, lung, and stomach damage. In one study, the ability
of animals to reproduce was not affected. We do not know if
people will experience health effects similar to those seen
How likely is 2,3-benzofuran to cause cancer?
The Department of Health and Human Services
has not classified 2,3-benzofuran as to its human carcinogenicity.
The International Agency for Research
on Cancer and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have
also not classified 2,3-benzofuran as to its human carcinogenicity.
Cancer of the kidneys, lungs, liver,
or stomach was seen in rats and mice that ingested 2,3-benzofuran
for long periods of time.
There are no studies on 2,3-benzofuran's
potential to cause cancer in people.
Is there a medical test to show whether I've been exposed to 2,3-benzofuran?
There is a test to measure 2,3-benzofuran
in the blood or in breast milk. However, this test requires
special equipment and is not usually available in your doctor's
This test may only measure 2,3-benzofuran
from a recent exposure. It is not known how long 2,3-benzofuran
remains in your body after you have been exposed. The test
can't tell whether you may develop any health problems from
Has the federal government made recommendations to protect human health?
There are no standards or recommendations
specific for 2,3-benzofuran.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
allows 200 parts of coumarone-indene resin per million parts
of coating on the peels of citrus fruits (200 ppm).
FDA also allows the use of coumarone-resin
as a component of adhesives used in food packaging and as
a substance in plastics intended for repeated use in contact
Carcinogenicity: Ability to cause cancer.
Ingesting: Taking food or drink into
ppm: Parts per million.
Short time: Lasting 14 days or less.
Long time: Lasting one year or longer.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease
Registry (ATSDR). 1992. Toxicological Profile for 2,3-benzofuran. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.
Where can I get more information?
If you have questions or concerns, please contact your community or state health or environmental quality department or:
For more information, contact:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Office of Innovation and Analytics, Toxicology Section
4770 Buford Highway
Chamblee, GA 30341-3717
Phone: 1-800-CDC-INFO 888-232-6348 (TTY)
Email: Contact CDC-INFO
ATSDR can also tell you the location of occupational and environmental health clinics. These clinics specialize in recognizing, evaluating, and treating illnesses resulting from exposure to hazardous substances.