Return to Standards Table

CASRN: Various CASRN numbers for different chemical species

Update: May 2004

Current Massachusetts Regulatory Limit
Carbon number fraction-specific ORSGLs are presented below:

Carbon Number Fraction-SpecificAliphatics (mg/L)
Carbon Number Fraction-SpecificAromatics (mg/L)

Federal Regulatory Limit
The U.S. EPA has not published an MCL for petroleum hydrocarbons as a class.

Basis for Criteria
The ORSGLs for petroleum hydrocarbons were originally based on the approach described in the Interim Final Petroleum Report: Development of Health-Based Alternative to the Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon Parameter (MassDEP, 1994). This approach essentially grouped the list of component chemicals in petroleum by carbon number (i.e., carbon number fraction) and designated a "reference compound" for each range of compounds usually chosen because its toxicity is relatively well characterized. For each reference compound, a U.S. EPA oral Reference Dose (RfD) was identified or, for reference compounds without U.S. EPA published values, an oral dose-response value was developed from available toxicity information.

An update to the toxicity values was published in November 2003 (MassDEP, 2003). The updated values were used to derive the current ORSGLs. The updated derivation uses toxicity studies on mixtures corresponding to these fractions to develop these fraction-specific values.

The toxicity values are used together with standard drinking water assumptions (a 70-kg adult drinks 2 liters of water per day) to back-calculate fraction-specific drinking water guidelines.

Critical Effects
Petroleum is composed of a large number of constituents, each of which is characterized by a separate toxicology. In general, acute exposure to hydrocarbons at high concentrations affect the central nervous system and with such symptoms as lethargy, confusion, headache, dizziness and nausea. Information on chronic exposures and effects is limited for many constituents, although a number of petroleum constituents have been well-studied. Chronic effects noted among a range of constituents include effects on the liver, kidney, blood, nervous system and testis.

Cancer Assessment: U.S. EPA has identified cancer slope factors for only two compounds, including benzene and benzo(a)pyrene (B(a)P), although U.S. EPA considers a number of other compounds to be carcinogenic as well. For additional information on the carcinogenicity of petroleum hydrocarbons, please consult ORS.

Petroleum hydrocarbons

Analytical Information
Please refer to MassDEP (2004a, 2004b) for information regarding the analysis of petroleum hydrocarbon fractions.

PQLs and analytical methods may have been updated since this guidance value was last revised. Updated analytical methods for drinking water and their associated PQLs may be found at US EPA Drinking Water Analytical Methods .

MassDEP (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection). August 1994. Interim final petroleum report: development of health-based alternative to the total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) parameter. Office of Research and Standards and ABB Environmental Services. Boston, MA.

MassDEP (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection). 2003. Updated petroleum hydrocarbon fraction toxicity values for the VPH/EPH/APH methodology. Final report. Office of Research and Standards. Boston, MA.

MassDEP (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection). 2004a. Method for the Determination of Volatile Petroleum Hydrocarbons (VPH). Rev 1.1. Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Boston, MA.

MassDEP (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection). 2004b. Method for the Determination of Extractable Petroleum Hydrocarbons (EPH). Rev 1.1. Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Boston, MA.

[17] Monitoring for these compounds is not required but is done on a case-by-case basis. These limits may be used when evaluating health risks posed by clearly identified mixtures of petroleum hydrocarbon compounds. The analytical methods to use to generate data to compare to the Drinking Water Guidelines are the Volatile Petroleum Hydrocarbon (VPH) and the Extractable Petroleum Hydrocarbon (EPH) methods developed by the MassDEP (MassDEP 1998).