Ether derivatives of dihydroxy alcohols, which are formed from ethylene or propylene, comprise an important group of groundwater contaminants known as glycol ethers. Compounds in this group are used as solvents, cleaning agents, and emulsifiers in many chemical products and manufacturing operations. Glycol ethers have been associated with a variety of toxic effects, and some compounds in the group are relatively potent teratogens. The limited information available suggests that glycol ethers are contaminants in groundwater, especially in anaerobic plumes emanating from disposal of mixed industrial and household waste. Most methods used to analyze groundwater samples cannot adequately detect μg/? (ppb) concentrations of glycol ethers, and the existing methods perform worst for the most widely used and toxic species. A new method capable of analyzing μg/? concentrations of glycol ethers was recently developed, and its use is recommended for groundwater samples where glycol ethers are likely to be present.
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