Methanol: the Current Status of Environmental Health Issues
Methanol has been a topic of interest both as an environmental pollutant and as a fuel. The Clean Air Act (CAA) includes methanol in a list of 189 toxic air pollutants that the U.S. Congress identified for special consideration in the 1990 CAA Amendments. In addition, growing interest in the use of methanol in fuel cells has re-focused attention on this alcohol fuel and raises the possibility that population exposures to methanol could increase well beyond that which occurs with the currently limited use of methanol as an alternative fuel. Three areas of recent activity related to methanol will be described to highlight some of the key environmental health issues related to methanol: (1) a petition submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove methanol from the CAA list of toxic air pollutants; (2) a review of the effects of methanol on human reproduction and development for the U.S. National Toxicology Program; and (3) a National Water Research Institute workshop to identify actions that would help avoid repeating problems associated with oxygenated fuels as methanol fuel use increases.