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Health Effects in Humans and Experimental Animals

Human releases of methanol into the environment come primarily from solvent use, methanol production, end-product manufacturing, and bulk storage and handling losses. In 2013 15,385 tonnes of methanol were released to Canada’s environment by major industrial sources, of which 13,000 tonnes were released to the air, 2,300 to water and 85 to land (Environment Canada 2013). The major emitters were pulp and paper, chemical manufacture, oil and gas, and waste treatment facilities. Methanol occurs naturally in humans, animals and plants. It is a natural constituent of blood, urine, saliva and exhaled air, and it has been found in breast milk. Humans have a background body burden of 0.5 mg/kg body weight. Natural emission sources of methanol include volcanic gasses, vegetation, microbes and insects. Sorption of methanol to soil particles is low, with methanol partitioning preferentially into porewater. The high water solubility of methanol, in combination with its very low soil adsorption coefficient, provides potential for high concentrations of methanol to be present in soil porewater, and for methanol in soil porewater to be highly mobile. A 1994 field study by the American Petroleum Institute (1994) found the half-life of methanol in groundwater to be approximately 245 days.