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CHEMINFO Record Number: 41
CCOHS Chemical Name: Ethylene glycol

Ethylène glycol
Ethylene alcohol
Ethylene dihydrate
Glycol alcohol
Monoethylene glycol

Chemical Name French: Éthylène glycol
Chemical Name Spanish: Etilenglicol
CAS Registry Number: 107-21-1
RTECS Number(s): KW2975000
EU EINECS/ELINCS Number: 203-473-3
Chemical Family: Aliphatic polyhydric alcohol / aliphatic dihydric alcohol / aliphatic diol / glycol
Molecular Formula: C2-H6-O2
Structural Formula: HO-CH2-CH2-OH


Appearance and Odour:
Clear, colourless, syrupy liquid; hygroscopic (absorbs moisture from the air).(5,9)

Odour Threshold:
0.08 ppm; 25 ppm (method unspecified) (3)

Warning Properties:
UNRELIABLE: Reported odour thresholds vary significantly. Has also been reported as odourless.(5,9)

Lower grades may contain small amounts of water and diethylene glycol.(4)

Uses and Occurrences:
Used as antifreeze; humectant (moisture-retaining agent); plasticizer; hydraulic fluid; solvent. Used in the synthesis of polyester fibres such as poly(ethylene terephthalate).


Clear, colourless, syrupy, hygroscopic liquid. Probably odourless. Can probably burn if strongly heated. VERY TOXIC. May be harmful or fatal if absorbed through the skin or swallowed. May be irritating to respiratory tract. May cause kidney damage. SUSPECT REPRODUCTIVE HAZARD - may cause embryotoxic and teratogenic effects.


Effects of Short-Term (Acute) Exposure

Vapour and mist can cause irritation of the nose and throat. Concentrations of 140 mg/m3 (56 ppm) or greater could not be tolerated for long due to throat irritation.(9) Concentrations of about 200 mg/m3 (80 ppm) or more were intolerable, with a burning sensation along the throat and a burning cough.
Vapour concentrations are normally too low at room temperature (low vapour pressure) to cause significant toxic effects from vapour alone. Exposure to vapour and mists is possible, however at elevated temperatures, and adverse effects have been reported from exposure to mists. Drowsiness has been observed in excessively exposed workers, but irritation was not reported.(9)

Skin Contact:
Liquid may cause irritation. Human information is not available, but ethylene glycol was a mild irritant in an animal study.
Ethylene glycol can be absorbed through skin damaged by eczema.(17) Extent of absorption through undamaged skin is unknown. However, animal studies suggest that toxic effects could occur as a result of extensive and prolonged skin contact. Symptoms may be similar to those described for ingestion.

Eye Contact:
Liquid may cause irritation. In one report, the liquid caused inflammation of the eyelid but no permanent damage.(16) In animal tests, liquid ethylene glycol was non-irritating or mildly irritating.
Vapour and mist may cause irritation. Human information is not available, but some animals exposed to ethylene glycol continuously for several days developed eye irritation.

Ethylene glycol can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and weakness, as well as drunkenness, dizziness, stupor, convulsions and coma (symptoms of depression of the central nervous system). Death could result from respiratory arrest or cardiovascular collapse. In humans, a dose of 100 mL may cause death.
If the victim survives, kidney failure may develop within the next several days.(5,18)
In some instances, vision disturbances have been reported. The persistence of these lesions could not be determined.(16)

Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure

INHALATION: Volunteers exposed to approximately 30 mg/m3 (12 ppm), 22 hr/day for 28 days experienced only mild throat irritation, slight headache and low backache.(9)

Workers exposed to mist and vapour from an ethylene glycol product heated above 100 deg C experienced frequent attacks of unconsciousness and visual disturbances (nystagmus). The product contained 40% ethylene glycol, 55% boric acid and 5% ammonia.(5)

INGESTION: Human information is not available, but animal studies indicate that repeated ingestion can cause formation of bladder and kidney stones, as well as kidney damage.

SKIN SENSITIVITY: Two cases of sensitization to ethylene glycol have been reported in people occupationally exposed to this chemical during polishing and cutting of glass lenses.(20)


No human information. Not carcinogenic in animal studies.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has not evaluated the carcinogenicity of this chemical.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has designated this chemical as not classifiable as a human carcinogen (A4).

The US National Toxicology Program (NTP) has not listed this chemical in its report on carcinogens.

Teratogenicity and Embryotoxicity:
No human information. Embryotoxic and teratogenic in animal feeding studies at high doses which were not maternally toxic.

Reproductive Toxicity:
No human information. In an animal study, long-term ingestion of ethylene glycol did not affect fertility of male or female rats.

No human information. An in-vivo animal study was negative.

Toxicologically Synergistic Materials:
Information not available

Potential for Accumulation:
Ethylene glycol is broken down in the body and excreted. Break-down products include glycolic acid and oxalic acid (CHEMINFO 358E), which are thought to play a role in some of the toxic effects observed.


Remove source of contamination or move victim to fresh air. Obtain medical advice immediately.

Skin Contact:
Remove contaminated clothing, shoes and leather goods (e.g. watchbands, belts). As quickly as possible, flush contaminated area with lukewarm, gently running water for at least 5 minutes, or until the chemical has been removed. If irritation persists, repeat flushing. Obtain medical advice immediately. Completely decontaminate clothing, shoes and leather goods before re-use or discard.

Eye Contact:
Immediately flush the contaminated eye(s) with lukewarm, gently flowing water for at least 5 minutes, or until the chemical has been removed, while holding the eyelid(s) open. If irritation persists, repeat flushing. Obtain medical advice immediately.

Never give anything by mouth if victim is rapidly losing consciousness, is unconscious or convulsing. DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING. Have victim drink 240 to 300 mL (8 to 10 oz.) of water. If vomiting occurs naturally, rinse mouth and repeat administration of water. If breathing has stopped, trained personnel should begin artificial respiration (AR) or, if the heart has stopped, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately. Quickly transport victim to an emergency facility.

First Aid Comments:
Provide general supportive measures (comfort, warmth, rest).
Consult a doctor and/or the nearest Poison Control Centre for all exposures except minor instances of inhalation or skin contact.
All first aid procedures should be periodically reviewed by a doctor familiar with the material and its conditions of use in the workplace.


Flash Point:
111 deg C (232 deg F) (closed cup) (1); 115 deg C (240 deg F) (open cup) (2)

Lower Flammable (Explosive) Limit (LFL/LEL):
3.2% (1)

Upper Flammable (Explosive) Limit (UFL/UEL):
15.3% (11)

Autoignition (Ignition) Temperature:
398 deg C (748 deg F) (1)

Sensitivity to Mechanical Impact:
Probably not sensitive; stable material

Sensitivity to Static Charge:
Information not available. Probably not sensitive; high flash point.

Fire Hazard Summary:
This material can probably burn if strongly heated.

Extinguishing Media:
Water spray or fog, carbon dioxide, dry chemical powder, alcohol foam or polymer foam. Water of foam may cause frothing. (1)

Fire Fighting Instructions:
Water spray can be used to extinguish fires involving ethylene glycol, since it can be cooled below its flash point. Water or foam may cause frothing. However, a water fog that is gently applied to the surface of the liquid will cause frothing that will smother and extinguish the fire.
Water spray or mist can be used to absorb heat, keep containers cool and protect exposed material. If a leak or spill has not ignited, use water spray to disperse the vapours and to protect personnel attempting to stop a leak. Water spray may be used to flush spills away from ignition sources.

Protection of Fire Fighters:
Do not enter without wearing specialized protective equipment suitable for the situation. Firefighter's normal protective clothing (Bunker Gear) will not provide adequate protection. Chemical protective clothing (e.g. chemical splash suit) and positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus (NIOSH approved or equivalent) may be necessary.


NFPA - Health: 2 - Intense or continued (but not chronic) exposure could cause temporary incapacitation or possible residual injury.
NFPA - Flammability: 1 - Must be preheated before ignition can occur.
NFPA - Instability: 0 - Normally stable, even under fire conditions, and not reactive with water.


Molecular Weight: 62.07

Conversion Factor:
1 ppm = 2.53 mg/m3; 1 mg/m3 = 0.40 ppm at 25 deg C

Physical State: Liquid
Melting Point: -13 deg C (9 deg F) (2,4)
Boiling Point: 198 deg C (388 deg F) (3)
Relative Density (Specific Gravity): 1.1135 at 20 deg C (water = 1) (2)
Solubility in Water: Soluble in all proportions (4,11)
Solubility in Other Liquids: Soluble in all proportions in lower aliphatic alcohols, glycol ethers, acetone. Poor solubility in benzene, toluene, dichloromethane and chloroform.(4)
Coefficient of Oil/Water Distribution (Partition Coefficient): Log P(oct) = -1.93 (3); also reported as Log P(oct) = -1.36 (11)
pH Value: Neutral
Vapour Density: 2.14 (air = 1)
Vapour Pressure: 0.007 kPa (0.05 mm Hg) at 20 deg C: 0.027 kPa (0.20 mm Hg) at 30 deg C (3)
Saturation Vapour Concentration: 66 ppm at 20 deg C (calc.); 260 ppm at 30 deg C (calc.).
Evaporation Rate: Not available
Critical Temperature: 372 deg C (702 deg F) (4)

Other Physical Properties:
VISCOSITY-DYNAMIC: 21 centipoises (2.1 Pa.s) at 20 deg C (2)


Normally stable.

Hazardous Polymerization:
Does not polymerize.

Incompatibility - Materials to Avoid:

NOTE: Chemical reactions that could result in a hazardous situation (e.g. generation of flammable or toxic chemicals, fire or detonation) are listed here. Many of these reactions can be done safely if specific control measures (e.g. cooling of the reaction) are in place. Although not intended to be complete, an overview of important reactions involving common chemicals is provided to assist in the development of safe work practices.

STRONG OXIDIZING AGENTS (e.g. perchloric acid, chromic acid, nitrates) - increased risk of fire and explosion.(10)

PERCHLORIC ACID - violent decomposition can occur.(11)

STRONG BASES (e.g. sodium hydroxide) - decomposition can occur.(10)

PHOSPHORUS(V) SULFIDE - explosion at elevated temperatures.(10)

STRONG ACIDS (e.g. oleum, 96% sulfuric acid, chlorosulfonic acid) - increased temperature and pressure in a closed container.(1)

SILVERED COPPER WIRES CARRYING DC CURRENT - ignition on contact with ethylene glycol.(10)

Hazardous Decomposition Products:
None reported

Conditions to Avoid:
Temperatures above 111 deg C

Corrosivity to Metals:
Not corrosive to most metals. Above 100 deg C, ethylene glycol is corrosive to aluminum.(4)


LD50 (oral, rat): 5.89 g/kg; 8.54 g/kg; 13.0 g/kg (5)
LD50 (oral, mouse): 7.5 g/kg; 15.28 g/kg (5,6)
LD50 (oral, guinea pig): 6.6 g/kg; 11.0 g/kg (5)
LD50 (oral, rabbit): 5.0 g/kg (5)
LD50 (dermal, rabbit): 9.5 g/kg (6)

EYE IRRITATION - LIQUID (rabbit): Application of 0.5 mL undiluted ethylene glycol did not cause irritation. Application of 0.05 mL of 4% ethylene glycol every 10 minutes for 6 hours caused mild irritation. In unconfirmed studies, undiluted ethylene glycol was reported to be a mild or moderate irritant.(5,6)
EYE IRRITATION - VAPOUR: Animals (rat, guinea pig, rabbit, monkey, dog) exposed to 57 mg/m3 (23 ppm) ethylene glycol, 8 hr/day, 5 days/week for 6 weeks did not develop irritation.(7)

Rats and rabbits exposed continuously to 12 mg/m3 (4.8 ppm) ethylene glycol for several days exhibited moderate to severe irritation. Irritation was not observed in guinea pigs, monkeys or dogs.(7)

SKIN IRRITATION (rabbit): Application of 555 mg (0.5 mL) was reported to cause mild irritation (original not available).(6)

LONG-TERM INGESTION (rat, monkey): Repeated ingestion of ethylene glycol caused bladder and kidney stone formation, and kidney damage. Males seemed more susceptible to toxic effects of ethylene glycol than females.(5)

LONG-TERM INHALATION: Toxic effects were not observed in animals (rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs and monkeys) exposed to 10 or 57 mg/m3 (4 or 23 ppm), 8 hr/day, 5 days/week for 6 weeks (7), nor in rats and mice exposed to 350-400 mg/m3 (140-160 ppm), 8 hr/day for 16 weeks.(9)

CARCINOGENICITY: Ethylene glycol did not produce tumours in rats when administered as 1% of the diet for 2 years. In other studies, ethylene glycol did not cause tumours in rats or mice when injected repeatedly under the skin.(5)

EMBRYOTOXICITY (ingestion): Embryotoxicity (for example, decreased birthweight and survival) was observed in offspring of mice given 1% ethylene glycol in their drinking water over 14 weeks, but not in offspring of rats fed 1000 mg/kg/day, over 3 generations. Parental toxicity was not significant in these studies.(8,14)

Embryotoxicity was seen when mice were fed 750-3000 mg/kg/day for several days during pregnancy.(13) In a similar study with rats, embryotoxicity was seen at doses of 2500-5000 mg/kg/day but not at 1250 mg/kg/day. Maternal toxicity was not significant in these studies.(13)

Birth weight and length were decreased in offspring of rats fed 1078 or 1595 mg/kg/day for 10 days during pregnancy. Maternal toxicity was not discussed in the english abstract (translation of paper not available).(17)

TERATOGENICITY (mouse, rat): Malformations were seen in offspring of mice fed 750-3000 mg/kg/day and rats fed 1250-5000 mg/kg/day for several days during pregnancy. Maternal toxicity was not significant in these studies.(13)

Malformations were not seen in offspring of rats fed up to 1000 mg/kg/day for several days during pregnancy.(15)

In another study, rats were fed 253-1595 mg/kg/day for 10 days during pregnancy. Doses of 1078 and 1595 mg/kg were teratogenic (e.g. fissure in wall of abdomen, brain located outside the skull, harelip, rib malformations). Maternal toxicity was not discussed in the english abstract (translation of paper not available).(19)

FERTILITY: No effects on fertility were observed when male and female rats were fed up to 1000 mg/kg/day over 3 generations.(8)

MUTAGENICITY: Not mutagenic to bacteria.(5) Mutagenic in studies with isolated mammalian cells.(6) Did not cause an increase in dominant lethal mutations in offspring of male rats fed 1000 mg/kg/day for approximately 14 weeks prior to mating.(8)


Selected Bibliography:
(1) Fire protection guide to hazardous materials. 13th ed. Edited by A.B. Spencer, et al. National Fire Protection Association, 2002. NFPA 325; NFPA 491
(2) The Merck index: an encyclopedia of chemicals, drugs, and biologicals. 11th ed. Merck, 1989. p. 3759
(3) Verschueren, K. Handbook of environmental data on organic chemicals. 2nd ed. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1983. p. 646-647
(4) Ullmann's encyclopedia of industrial chemistry. 5th rev. ed. Vol. A10. VCH Verlagsgesellschaft, 1987. p. 101-115
(5) Patty's industrial hygiene and toxicology. 3rd rev. ed. Vol. 2C. John Wiley & Sons, 1981. p. 3817-3832
(6) RTECS record for ethylene glycol. Last updated 8901; printed 1989 06 09
(7) Coon, R.A., et al. Animal inhalation studies on ammonia, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, dimethylamine, and ethanol. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. Vol. 16 (1970). p. 646-655
(8) DePass, L.R., et al. Three-generation reproduction and dominant lethal mutagenesis studies of ethylene glycol in the rat. Fundamental and Applied Toxicology. Vol. 7 (1986). p. 566-572
(9) Documentation of the threshold limit values and biological exposure indices. 6th ed. ACGIH, 1991. p. 612-613
(10) Bretherick, L. Bretherick's handbook of reactive chemical hazards. 4th ed. Butterworths, 1990. p. 304, 1183, 1440-1441
(11) HSDB record for ethylene glycol. Complete update 09/03/87; printed 1989 06 09
(12) Forsberg, K., et al. Quick selection guide to chemical protective clothing. 4th ed. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 2002
(13) Price, C.J., et al. The developmental toxicity of ethylene glycol in rats and mice. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. Vol. 81 (1985). p. 113-127
(14) Lamb IV, J.C., et al. Reproductive and developmental toxicity of ethylene glycol in the mouse. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. Vol. 81 (1985). p. 100-112
(15) Maronpot, R.R., et al. Teratogenicity study of ethylene glycol in rats. Drug and Chemical Toxicology. Vol. 6, no. 6 (1983). p. 579-594
(16) Grant, W.M. Toxicology of the eye. 3rd ed. Charles C. Thomas, 1986. p. 415-419
(17) Scientific basis for Swedish occupational standards III. Arbete Och Halsa. Vol. 24 (1982). p. 20-26
(18) Gosselin, R.E., et al. Clinical toxicology of commercial products. 5th ed. Williams & Wilkins, 1984. p. III-172 - III-179
(19) Longzan, Y., et al. Teratogenic studies on ethylene glycol (EG) in rats. Chinese Journal of Preventive Medicine. Vol. 20 (1986). p. 289-290 (English abstract)
(20) Cronin, E. Contact dermatitis. Churchill Livingstone, 1980. p. 809
(22) NIOSH pocket guide to chemical hazards. NIOSH, June 1994. p. 136-137
(22) European Economic Community. Commission Directive 93/72/EEC. September 1, 1993

Information on chemicals reviewed in the CHEMINFO database is drawn from a number of publicly available sources. A list of general references used to compile CHEMINFO records is available in the database Help.

Review/Preparation Date: 1993-03-10

Revision Indicators:
TDG 1994-02-01
Sampling 1996-01-01
Fire fighting instructions 1995-01-01
Conditions to avoid 1995-01-01
EU number 1995-08-01
EU class 1995-08-01
EU risk 1995-08-01
EU safety 1995-08-01
US Transport 1995-08-01
Sampling 1995-08-01
TLV comments 1995-11-01
TLV-C 1996-09-01
Resistance of materials 1998-05-01
ERPG-1 2002-05-23
ERPG-2 2002-05-23
ERPG-3 2002-05-23
Bibliography 2003-03-26
NFPA (health) 2003-03-26
Extinguishing media 2003-03-26
Carcinogenicity 2003-05-30
PEL-C final 2003-10-28
PEL-TWA transitional 2003-10-28
Resistance of materials for PPE 2004-03-28

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