Nominated: September 2011
Sulfolane is a highly water-soluble solvent commonly used for refining natural gas and petroleum and was found in contaminated groundwater and well water in North Pole, Alaska, near a petroleum refinery in 2009. Water contaminated with sulfolane also has been identified in other natural gas or petroleum refining sites.
Because it moves into groundwater, the potential for human exposure to sulfolane through drinking water is high. Exposure may also occur through inhalation or skin contact for those who work in industries using sulfolane.
NTP Studies & Findings
NTP is performing a set of studies to evaluate the toxicity of sulfolane.
What did the studies find?
See the table below for the most up-to-date information on the variety of projects taking place at NTP.
|Study||Description||Status||Findings & Supporting Files|
|Absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion||Animal studies to investigate how well sulfolane was absorbed into the body, where it circulated in the body, and how it was cleared following oral administration and skin application.||Completed||Findings:
|28-day toxicity study||Studies in multiple animal species to determine species sensitivity.||Ongoing||
|Subchronic toxicity study||Three-month studies to identify effects on various endpoints, including development and reproduction in rats and mice.||Ongoing||N/A|
|Chronic toxicity study||Studies to determine the effects of long-term exposure on rats and mice, including any potential carcinogenic effects.||Ongoing||N/A|
|Immunotoxicity||Rat and mouse studies to determine the potential of sulfolane to effect immune system function.||Ongoing||N/A|
Research at Other Agencies
- Health Consultation: Sulfolane Plume in Groundwater: Evaluation of Community Concerns About Sulfolane in Private Water Wells
- North Pole Refinery Project Documents – This website contains many resources on sulfolane, including fact sheets, newsletters, press releases, FAQs, and reports regarding drinking water, site characterization and remediation, and human health and toxicology.
- US Environmental Protection Agency: National Center for Environmental Assessment
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
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