ToxFAQs™ for Crotonaldehyde
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This fact sheet answers the most frequently asked health questions about crotonaldehyde. 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.
The general population can be exposed to crotonaldehyde by inhaling tobacco smoke, gasoline and diesel engine exhausts, and smoke from wood burning. People working with crotonaldehyde to manufacture other chemicals may be exposed to higher levels. Damage to the respiratory system may occur if you breathe in crotonaldehyde vapors. Contact with the skin or eye can result in severe injury. This substance has been found in at least 3 of the 1,585 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
What is crotonaldehyde?
Crotonaldehyde is a clear, colorless
to straw colored liquid with a strong, suffocating odor. It
is highly flammable and produces toxic vapors at room temperature.
Crotonaldehyde is found naturally in emissions of some vegetation
and volcanoes; many foods contain crotonaldehyde in small
Crotonaldehyde is mainly used in the
manufacture of sorbic acid, which is a yeast and mold inhibitor.
Crotonaldehyde has been used as a warning agent in fuels,
as alcohol denaturant, as stabilizer for tetraethyl-lead,
in the preparation of rubber accelerators, and in leather
What happens to crotonaldehyde when it enters the environment?
- When released to air, crotonaldehyde will exist solely
as a gas. Crotonaldehyde gas is degraded rapidly in the
atmosphere by reacting with substances commonly found in
the air. It will only persist in the atmosphere for several
hours to a few days before being degraded.
- Crotonaldehyde is soluble in water. It can be broken down
by reacting with substances found in sunlit surface waters
and can also be degraded by bacteria. Crotonaldehyde also
evaporates from water.
- Crotonaldehyde is a highly mobile liquid and does not
stick to soil surfaces. Therefore, if it is released to
soil it can travel below the soil surface and contaminate
groundwater. Crotonaldehyde can also evaporate from soil
or be degraded by bacteria commonly found in soil.
- Crotonaldehyde does not accumulate in the food chain.
How might I be exposed to crotonaldehyde?
- Crotonaldehyde is emitted from the combustion of gasoline,
the burning of wood and the burning of tobacco. Therefore,
the general population may be exposed to crotonaldehyde
through inhalation of tobacco smoke, gasoline and diesel
engine exhausts, and smoke from wood burning.
- Cigarettes and other tobacco products, gas cookers, and
open fireplaces are sources of formaldehyde exposure.
- Crotonaldehyde is a liquid chemical used to synthesize
other chemicals. Therefore workers employed in occupations
where crotonaldehyde is used may inhale crotonaldehyde vapors
or get the liquid on their skin.
- People living near uncontrolled hazardous waste sites
may be exposed to higher than normal levels of crotonaldehyde.
How can crotonaldehyde affect my health?
Crotonaldehyde in the air can irritate
your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, possibly causing you to
cough and experience chest tightness and shortness of breath.
High levels of crotonaldehyde can cause a build-up of fluid
in your lungs, which may result in death.
Some people may become sensitive to crotonaldehyde
and develop a reaction to crotonaldehyde, even at very low
Since crotonaldehyde is known to be irritating,
you might experience chemical burns of the lips, mouth, throat,
esophagus, and stomach if you were to ingest crotonaldehyde.
If you come into contact with liquid
crotonaldehyde, it can cause serious burns to your skin or
eyes. Some people may become allergic to crotonaldehyde upon
We do not know if exposure to crotonaldehyde
will result in reproductive effects in humans. However, crotonaldehyde
has been shown to cause degeneration of sperm cells in mice.
How likely is crotonaldehyde to cause cancer?
The EPA considers crotonaldehyde to be
a possible human carcinogen. The International Agency for
Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that crotonaldehyde is
not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans.
How does crotonaldehyde affect children?
Children are probably affected by exposure
to crotonaldehyde in the same ways as adults. We do not know
whether children differ from adults in their susceptibility
We do not know if exposure to crotonaldehyde
will result in birth defects or other developmental effects
How can families reduce the risk of exposure to crotonaldehyde?
Families are not likely to be exposed
to levels of crotonaldehyde that would be high enough to cause
Is there a medical test to show whether I've been exposed to crotonaldehyde?
There are no specific blood or urine
tests for crotonaldehyde. If a severe exposure has occurred,
respiratory function tests and a chest x-ray may show whether
damage has been done to the lungs. These tests could be performed
in a doctor's office, clinic, or hospital as long as they
have the proper test equipment.
Has the federal government made recommendations to
protect human health?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) sets a limit of 2 parts of crotonaldehyde per million
parts of workroom air (2 ppm) for an 8-hour work shift, 40-hour
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 2002. Managing Hazardous Materials Incidents. Volume III – Medical Management Guidelines for Acute Chemical Exposures: Crotonaldehyde. 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.