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Water: Basic Information about Regulated Drinking Water Contaminants

Basic Information about Ethylene dibromide in Drinking Water

Ethylene Dibromide at a Glance

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) = 0.00005 milligrams per Liter (mg/L) or 50 parts per trillion (ppt)

Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) = zero

Health Effects
Some people who drink water containing ethylene dibromide in excess of the MCL over many years could experience problems with liver, stomach, reproductive system, or kidneys, and may have an increased risk of cancer.

Drinking Water Health Advisories provide more information on health effects

Chemical Abstract Service Registry Number

Sources of Contamination
Discharge from petroleum refineries

List of all Regulated Contaminants (PDF) (6 pp, 396 K, About PDF)

EPA regulates ethylene dibromide in drinking water to protect public health. Ethylene dibromide may cause health problems if present in public or private water supplies in amounts greater than the drinking water standard set by EPA.

What is ethylene dibromide?
Ethylene bromide, also known as EDB, and 1,2-Dibromoethane, is a colorless, heavy synthetic organic liquid with a mildly sweet chloroform-like odor.

Uses for ethylene dibromide.
Ethylene dibromide is mainly used in an anti-knock gasolene mixtures, particularly aviation fuel.

If you are concerned about ethylene dibromide in a private well, please visit:

What are ethylene dibromide's health effects?
Some people who drink water containing ethylene dibromide well in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for many years could experience problems with liver, stomach, reproductive system, or kidneys, and may have an increased risk of cancer.

This health effects language is not intended to catalog all possible health effects for ethylene dibromide. Rather, it is intended to inform consumers of some of the possible health effects associated with ethylene dibromide in drinking water when the rule was finalized.

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What are EPA's drinking water regulations for ethylene dibromide?
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime with an adequate margin of safety, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG). Contaminants are any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substances or matter in water.

The MCLG for ethylene dibromide is zero. EPA has set this level of protection based on the best available science to prevent potential health problems. EPA has set an enforceable regulation for ethylene dibromide, called a maximum contaminant level (MCL), at 0.00005 mg/L or 50 ppt. MCLs are set as close to the health goals as possible, considering cost, benefits and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies.

The Phase II Rule, the regulation for ethylene dibromide, became effective in 1992. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to periodically review the national primary drinking water regulation for each contaminant and revise the regulation, if appropriate. EPA reviewed ethylene dibromide as part of the Six Year Review and determined that the zero MCLG and 0.00005 mg/L or 50 ppt MCL for ethylene dibromide are still protective of human health.

States may set more stringent drinking water MCLGs and MCLs for ethylene dibromide than EPA.

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How does ethylene dibromide get into my drinking water?
EDB is released during the use, storage, and transport of leaded gasoline, as well as during any spills; from its former use as a pesticide; wastewater and emissions from processes and waste waters of the chemical industries that use it. When soil and climatic conditions are favorable, EDB may get into drinking water by runoff into surface water or by leaching into ground water.

A federal law called the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities in certain industries, which manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on their releases of these chemicals. For more information on the uses and releases of chemicals in your state, contact the Community Right-to-Know Hotline: (800) 424-9346.

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How will I know if ethylene dibromide is in my drinking water?
When routine monitoring indicates that ethylene dibromide levels are above the MCL, your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of ethylene dibromide so that it is below that level. Water suppliers must notify their customers as soon as practical, but no later than 30 days after the system learns of the violation. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health.

If your water comes from a household well, check with your health department or local water systems that use ground water for information on contaminants of concern in your area.

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How will ethylene dibromide be removed from my drinking water?
The following treatment method(s) have proven to be effective for removing ethylene dibromide to below 0.00005 mg/L or 50 ppt: Granular activated carbon.

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How do I learn more about my drinking water?
EPA strongly encourages people to learn more about their drinking water, and to support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water and upgrade the community water system. Your water bill or telephone book's government listings are a good starting point for local information.

Contact your water utility. EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual consumer confidence report (CCR) (sometimes called a water quality report) for their customers by July 1 of each year. If your water provider is not a community water system, or if you have a private water supply, request a copy from a nearby community water system.

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