SPRI Home About SPRI

Butadiene

Vinyl ethylene, Buta-1,3-diene, C4H6

SPRI Emission Reporting Threshold
100 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Air
Disclaimer
This sheet is a generic summary, designed to give the reader a basic level of background information about the substance in question. Great care has been taken to represent as effectively and correctly as possible the broad range of (not necessarily consistent) information which is available from a variety of sources. The reader must accept therefore that this sheet has no legal status and cannot be relied upon in any legal proceedings. SEPA disclaims any responsibility or liability whatsoever for errors and omissions in this sheet.
What is it?
Butadiene is a colourless gas with a petrol-like odour. It is non-corrosive but very flammable and readily reacts with strong oxidising agents. When heated, it gives off acrid fumes and explosions can occur where there is contact with air. Butadiene is slightly soluble in water and readily soluble in organic (carbon-containing) solvents. Butadiene is one of a group of chemicals known as the volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
What is it used for?
Most Butadiene produced is used to make synthetic rubber for tyres. It is also used to make plastics, elastomers and other chemicals.
Where does it come from?
Butadiene is released to the environment following leaks during its production, use, storage and disposal as an industrial chemical. It is also found in petrol and is released in vehicle exhaust fumes. Other man-made sources include from waste incineration, in cigarette smoke and from wood fires. Small amounts are also released from natural forest fires.
How might it affect the environment?
Most Butadiene in the environment is found in the air. It evaporates easily from soil and water and does not build up in the environment. As a VOC, Butadiene can be involved in the formation of ground level ozone which can cause damage to crops and materials. The impacts of Butadiene are on a local scale. It is not considered likely to have a significant impact on the global environment.
How might exposure to it affect human health?
1,3-Butadiene enters the body mainly by inhalation of air containing 1,3-butadiene. 1,3-Butadiene can enter the body by ingestion of contaminated food or water, or by dermal contact with petrol. Inhalation of air containing low levels of 1,3-butadiene can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Long term exposure to low levels may cause heart and lung damage. Exposure to high concentrations can result in a range of adverse health effects including damage to the central nervous system, blurred vision, nausea, headache, fatigue, decreased blood pressure and coma. The effects of ingestion of 1,3-butadiene are unknown. Dermal contact with 1,3 butadiene can cause skin irritation. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has designated 1,3-Butadiene as a possible carcinogen. However, exposure to 1,3-butadiene at normal background levels is unlikely to have any adverse effect on human health.
What steps are being taken to limit the potential impacts?
The main legislation controlling levels of Butadiene in the UK (including Scotland) is the National Air Quality Strategy. Butadiene is one of the eight key air pollutants targeted for reduction. UK (including Scottish) releases of Butadiene are also controlled under the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) regulations. European Directives concerned with regulating levels of Butadiene include that which evaluates and controls the risks of substances known to be in the environment (793/93) and that which regulates solvent use (99/13/EC). As a VOC, its release is controlled at an international level through the Basel Convention concerning the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous wastes and through the UN/ECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution.