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OCCURRENCE AND USE

Methanol occurs naturally in humans, animals, and plants, including fresh fruits and vegetables, and in fermented products, including wine and other spirits (see Tables 4-2 and 4-3). It is produced from the distillation of wood and is synthesized catalytically from crude petroleum. It is used industrially in the manufacture of other chemicals and as a solvent. It is added to various commercial and consumer products, including windshield washing solutions, deicing solutions, glass cleaners, duplicating fluids, solid canned fuels, paint thinners and removers, model airplane fuels, embalming fluids, lacquers, inks, and some formulations of gasohol motor fuel. Methanol has been found at concentrations up to 3.7 milligrams per liter (mg/L), with an average of <0.1 mg/L, in drinking water on the International Space Station (M. Hwang, J. Schultz, M. Hwang, and J. Schultz, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Houston, TX, personal commun., 2005).

TOXICOKINETICS AND METABOLISM

In the early 1980s, measurements of the background concentration of methanol in human blood used available techniques that were limited by poor sensitivity (limit of detection = about 0.4 milligram per deciliter [mg/dL])

TABLE 4-2 Methanol Concentrations in Foods and Beverages

Beverages and Food

Concentration

Beverages

 

Fresh and canned fruit juices (orange and grapefruit juices)

Average of 140 mg/L

1-43 mg/L

 

11-80 mg/L

 

12-640 mg/L

Carbonated beverages

~56 mg/L

Neutral spirits

<1,500 mg/L

Beer

6-27 mg/L

Wines

96-329 mg/L

Distilled spirits

16-220 mg/L

Bourbon

55 mg/L

Grain alcohol (50%)

1 mg/L

Brandies (USA, Canada, and Italy)

6,000-7,000 mg/L

Food

 

Beans

1.5-7.9 mg/kg

Split peas

3.6 mg/kg

Lentils

4.4 mg/kg

Abbreviation: mg/kg, milligram per kilogram.

Source: NTP CERHR 2003.



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