A Review of the Environmental Degradation, Ecotoxicity, and Bioaccumulation Potential of the Low Molecular Weight Polyether Polyol Substances

  • Thomas SchuppEmail author
  • Tom Austin
  • Charles V. Eadsforth
  • Bart Bossuyt
  • Summer M. Shen
  • Robert J. West
Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series (RECT, volume 244)


“Polyalkylene glycol” is the name given to a broad class of synthetic organic chemicals which are produced by polymerization of one or more alkylene oxide (epoxide) monomers, such as ethylene oxide (EO) and propylene oxide (PO), with various initiator substances which possess amine or alcohol groups. A generalization of this polymerization reaction is illustrated in Fig. 1.


Adsorption Aquatic toxicity Basic non-polar narcosis Basic polar narcosis Bioaccumulation Biodegradation Environmental behavior Environmental distribution Environmental modeling Environmental risk assessment Glycols Mode of action Persistency Photodegradation Physical properties Polyether polyol Polyetherol Polyetherol amine Polyethylene glycol Polypropylene glycol Polyurethane 



Diethylene glycol; 2,2′-oxy-diethanol


Ethylene oxide; oxirane


Glycerol; propane-1,2,3-triol


Mono-propylene glycol; propane-1,2-diol


2,2′,2″-Nitrilotriethanol; triethanol amine


Methyl-phenylene-2,3-diamine and methyl-phenylene-3,4-diamine, mixture of isomers


Predicted environmental concentration


Polyethylene glycol


Pentaerythritol; 2,2-bis(hydroxymethyl)propane-1,3-diol


Predicted no-effect concentration


Propylene oxide; methyloxirane


Sorbitol; glucitol; 1,2,3,4,5,6-hexahydroxy-cyclohexane


Sucrose; α,β-1,4-gluco-fructopyranose


1,1,1-Trimethylolpropane; propylidyne-1,1,1-trimethanol



The authors are grateful to Monika Leutbecher of Covestro Deutschland AG, Gitta Egbers of BASF Polyurethanes GmbH and Joerg Palmersheim, European Isocyanate and Polyols Producer Association (ISOPA) for their contributions to the discussion, and to Yunzhou Chai for performing the OASIS metabolism predictions. The authors gratefully acknowledge the many significant contributions of Dr. Urs Friederich (formerly Dow Europe GmbH) to the early development and drafting of this review. The authors are grateful to ISOPA for financial support. Views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of ISOPA.

Conflict of Interest

T. Schupp worked for BASF, a Polyether-polyol producer, until 2012.

B.T.A. Bossuyt is working for Huntsman, a Polyether-polyol producer.

R.J. West and S.M. Shen are working for Dow Chemical Company, a Polyether-polyol producer.

T. Austin and C.V. Eadsforth are working for Shell Chemical Company, a Polyether-polyol producer.

This work was sponsored by ISOPA, the European Isocyanate, and Polyol Producer Association. The authors declare that all data of the PEPOs available to them are evaluated and presented in good faith. The views presented are those of the authors and do not necessarily coincide with the views of ISOPA.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary Data 1 (DOCX 1447 kb)
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Supplementary Data 2 (DOCX 305 kb)
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Supplementary Data 3 (DOCX 19 kb)
447008_1_En_2_MOESM4_ESM.docx (305 kb)
Supplementary Data 4 (DOCX 131 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Schupp
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tom Austin
    • 2
  • Charles V. Eadsforth
    • 2
  • Bart Bossuyt
    • 3
  • Summer M. Shen
    • 4
  • Robert J. West
    • 5
  1. 1.Faculty of Chemical EngineeringMuenster University of Applied ScienceSteinfurtGermany
  2. 2.Shell Health, Brabazon House, Concord Business ParkManchesterUK
  3. 3.Global Product EHS DepartmentHuntsman EuropeEverbergBelgium
  4. 4.The Dow Chemical CompanyShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China
  5. 5.Toxicology and Environmental Research and ConsultingThe Dow Chemical CompanyMidlandUSA

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