Today, everyone blames the alcohol (ethanol) in our pump gasoline as the root cause of everybody’s fuel system problems. Tests have revealed that the levels of aromatics (which are nasty chemical ethers) now used in nearly all pump gasoline are the real cause of these failures — not the alcohol.
To illustrate this point, pour straight alcohol (like rubbing alcohol or even Jim Beam) in a Styrofoam cup and let it sit for hours. Nothing will happen. Pour an ounce or two of regular pump gasoline in one of these cups and see what happens. Don’t hold the cup over anything you care about because you will get wet as the fuel will instantaneously melt the Styrofoam.
Toluene is one of the milder aromatics used in pump gasoline. Typical pump gasoline can contain as much as 25-percent (!) aromatics which are these ether-based chemicals. These are generally referred to as BETX – which stands for Benzene, Ethylbenzene, Toluene, and Xylene. These are nasty chemicals and are the real culprits traced to attacking carburetors and fuel systems suffering from corrosion issues.
What’s worse, when combusted, BTEX chemicals create what are called ultra-fine particles (UFP). These particulates are so small that they can travel past the membrane in your lungs and directly enter into your bloodstream and possibly lead to cancer and other blood-related health problems.
So when someone tells you that ethanol is the cause of your fuel system problems, clue them into the issues around BTEX and what is really happening. Ethanol may contribute a small amount of water to the fuel and this can create a corrosive environment, but these BTEX chemicals are the real bad actors in pump gasoline.