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Last edited 06 Dec 2023
 What is butadiene?
Butadiene, buta means 4 carbons as in butane, and the diene means it contains two double-bonded carbons. It is referred to as 1,3-butadiene but also variations such as 1,2 and 1,4 butadiene, depending on the number of carbon atoms connected and thus stability. It is colourless gas with a odour of petrol, which breaks down quickly in the atmosphere, though is found in urban air as a result of motor vehicle emissions. Natural sources of 1,3-butadiene in the air come from Forest fires.
Butadiene is considered as a volatile organic compound or VOC. Organic compounds are defined in The Volatile Organic Compounds in Paints, Varnishes and Vehicle Refinishing Products Regulations 2012 as 'any compound containing at least the element carbon and one or more of hydrogen, oxygen, sulphur, phosphorus, silicon, nitrogen, or a halogen, with the exception of carbon oxides and inorganic carbonates and bicarbonates', with a volatile organic compound being 'any organic compound having an initial boiling point less than or equal to 250°C measured at a standard pressure of 101.3 kPa'
Butadiene was isolated from the pyrolysis of amyl alcohol in 1863 by the French chemist E. Caventou and in 1886 identified as the hydrocarbon butadiene by Henry Edward Armstrong isolated within pyrolysis products of petroleum. It has since been used in the chemical and plastics industries, because butadiene-based polymers have improved functionality, performance and safety, as well as lower costs. As such synthetic rubbers that are produced from butadiene for use in shoes, textiles, rubber and construction these include styrene-butadiene rubber, poly-butadiene rubber, styrene-butadiene latex, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Styrene-Butadiene-Styrene (SBS), Styrene butadiene (SBR), chloroprene rubber and nitrile rubber. It is is also used in the refinement of petroleum, secondary lead smelting, water treatment, agricultural fungicide, and in the production of the raw material for nylon. In 2020 global production was estimated at 14.2 million tons, mainly for the polymer industry.
Health effects caused by exposure to 1,3-butadiene are acute or chronic. Low acute exposure causes irritation to the eyes, throat, nose, and lungs and frostbite may also occur with skin exposure. Higher exposure can cause damage to the central nervous system, blurred vision, vertigo, tiredness, decreased blood pressure, headache, nausea, decreased pulse rate, and fainting. Chronic effects are more controversial, with several studies showing an increases in cardiovascular diseases and cancer, though strong causal relationships have only been shown in animal tests it is classified as a known human carcinogen.
Exposure can also occur from polluted air and water near chemical, plastic or rubber facilities; cigarette smoke; and ingestion of foods that are contaminated from plastic or rubber containers, but most likely auto mobile exhaust. Although 1,3-butadiene breaks down quickly in the atmosphere motor vehicle exhausts are a constant low levels source in ambient urban and suburban areas. Levels of emissions from vehicles and pollutants such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene have reduced over recent years as a direct result of air quality control schemes such as: Clean Air Zones in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Portsmouth, Sheffield, and Tyneside (Newcastle and Gateshead). Low Emission Zones (LEZ) such as found in Glasgow as well as Ultra Low Emissions Zones (ULEZ) as introduced to parts of London on 2019.
- Building related chemical reactions.
- BSRIA response to clean air strategy.
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