t-Butyl alcohol is widely used in the manufacture of perfumes and a variety of cosmetics. It is also used as a raw material in the production of isobutylene, which may be used to produce methyl tertiary butyl ether, a common gasoline additive, or to produce butyl elastomers used in the production of automobile tires. The National Cancer Institute nominated t-butyl alcohol to the NTP for study as a result of a review of chemicals found in drinking water. In addition to the high annual production and the potential for occupational exposure, there is also a potential for human exposure to t-butyl alcohol by the inhalation route from its use as an additive in unleaded gasoline. Therefore, toxicity studies of t-butyl alcohol were conducted in male and female F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice by whole-body inhalation. Animals were evaluated for hematology, clinical chemistry, urinalysis, reproductive toxicity, and histopathology. The genetic toxicity of t-butyl alcohol was assessed by testing the ability of the chemical to induce mutations in various strains of Salmonella typhimurium and L5178Y mouse lymphoma cells or sister chromatid exchanges and chromosomal aberrations in cultured Chinese hamster ovary cells, and by measuring the frequency of micronucleated erythrocytes in rat bone marrow and mouse peripheral blood.
In the 18-day inhalation studies, groups of five male and five female rats and mice were exposed to t-butyl alcohol by inhalation at concentrations of 450, 900, 1,750, 3,500, and 7,000 ppm for 6 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 12 exposure days. All rats and mice exposed to 7,000 ppm were killed moribund following a single 6-hour exposure. One 3,500 ppm male mouse died on day 3. Final mean body weights of 3,500 ppm male and female rats were significantly lower than those of the controls. Final mean body weights and body weight gains of all other exposed groups were similar to those of the controls. In animals exposed to 3,500 ppm, the thymus weights of male and female rats and female mice were less than those of the controls. The liver weights of male and female mice exposed to 3,500 ppm were greater than those of the controls. No gross or microscopic lesions were present in rats or mice.
In the 13-week inhalation studies, groups of 10 male and 10 female rats and mice were exposed to t-butyl alcohol at concentrations of 0, 135, 270, 540, 1,080, and 2,100 ppm for 6 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 13 weeks. One 2,100 ppm and five 1,080 ppm male mice died before the end of the studies. The final mean body weight of 2,100 ppm female mice and the mean body weight gains of 1,080 and 2,100 ppm female mice were significantly lower than those of the controls. Clinical findings of toxicity in the 1,080 ppm male mice that died during the studies included rough coats and emaciated appearance, hypoactivity, and prostration.
Minimal decreases in hematocrit values, hemoglobin concentrations, and erythrocyte counts occurred in the 1,080 and 2,100 ppm male rats at week 13. Hemoglobin concentrations and/or hematocrit values were also minimally decreased in male rats in the lower exposure groups. At week 13, a minimal decrease in urine pH occurred in the 1,080 ppm female and 2,100 ppm male and female rats. Neutrophilia occurred in the 2,100 ppm male mice. Organ weight differences in exposed rats included increased absolute and relative kidney weights of 1,080 ppm males and 2,100 ppm males and females and increased relative liver weights of 1,080 and 2,100 ppm females.
There were no treatment-related gross findings in male or female rats or mice; no microscopic lesions occurred in female rats or male or female mice that survived to the end of the study. In male rats, there was an exposure concentration-related increase in the severity of chronic nephropathy. Splenic lymphoid depletion was present in male mice that died during the studies; this lesion was presumed to be secondary to stress.
t-Butyl alcohol produced no adverse effects on reproductive parameters in male or female rats or mice.
The results of all tests of t-butyl alcohol for induction of genetic damage in vitro and in vivo were negative. In vitro, t-butyl alcohol was negative in Salmonella typhimurium and mouse lymphoma cell mutation tests, and it did not induce sister chromatid exchanges or chromosomal aberrations in cultured Chinese hamster ovary cells. These in vitro studies were conducted with and without metabolic activation (S9). In vivo, no increase in the frequency of micronucleated erythrocytes was observed in peripheral blood samples from mice administered t-butyl alcohol in drinking water for 13 weeks. Also, induction of micronucleated erythrocytes was noted in bone marrow cells of rats administered t-butyl alcohol by intraperitoneal injection.
In summary, inhalation exposure of rats and mice to t-butyl alcohol resulted in deaths following a single 7,000 ppm exposure and clinical findings of alcohol toxicity (hyper- and hypoactivity, ataxia) at concentrations of 900 ppm and greater in rats and 1,750 ppm and greater in mice. In 13-week studies at concentrations up to 2,100 ppm, only one death (that of a 2,100 ppm mouse) was attributed to chemical exposure. The most notable evidence of toxicity at the end of 13 weeks was limited to males and consisted of increased kidney weights, which correlated microscopically to increased severity of chronic nephropathy. Reproductive parameters in male and female rats and mice were unaffected after 13 weeks of exposure, and the results of all tests for genetic toxicity were negative.