Ethylene Oxide Information

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Ethylene Oxide

Other Names

Oxirane; Epoxyethane

Chemical Formula

C2H4O

CAS Number

75-21-8

Industry Uses

Disinfectant; Fumigant; Sterilization; Insecticide; Chemistry Laboratories

Health Risks

Irritation of eyes, skin, and mucous membranes; Central Nervous System Depression; Cancer

Vapor Pressure

1095 mmHg

Water Solubility

Miscible

Flammability

Very Flammable

Odor

Sweet, ether-like

Ethylene Oxide MSDS

What is Ethylene Oxide?

Ethylene Oxide is a cyclic ether and the simplest epoxide. At room temperature and standard pressure it is a colorless and very flammable gas. It is a bactericidal, fungicidal, and sporicidal disinfectant, and is effective against most micro-organisms including viruses. For this reason it is used in the sterilization of pharmaceutical and surgical materials. It is also used as a fumigant. Ethylene oxide is also used to make many consumer products as well as non-consumer chemicals. Some of these products include detergents, thickeners, solvents, plastics, and various organic chemicals. The vapors emitted by ethylene oxide are very toxic, but leave no residue on items it contacts. The odor is sweet (and often confused with diethyl ether), but by the time it can be smelled, the concentration levels are high enough to be toxic. Ethylene oxide is very flammable. It may react explosively even in the absence of air. If heated under pressure, it may explode.

Ethylene Oxide Exposure and Health Risks

Ethylene oxide is a toxic gas that has short-term and long-term effects. Ethylene oxide is a strong irritant, greatly affecting the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. It induces vomiting and nausea, and can cause headaches. It can also cause depression of the central nervous system and kidney and reproductive damage. Ethylene oxide is carcinogenic, and chronic exposure has been linked to increased risk of leukemia, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Ethylene oxide is a mutagen and may cause genetic defects by attacking germ cells.

Regulations

The table below summarizes the most-recent exposure limits.

Limit/Level

Type

Organization

Not Recommended

AEGL-1 (8 hrs)

EPA

80 ppm

AEGL-2 (10 min)

EPA

7.9 ppm

AEGL-2 (8 hrs)

EPA

360 ppm

AEGL-3 (10 min)

EPA

35 ppm

AEGL-3 (8 hrs)

EPA

<0.1 ppm

TWA (8 hrs)

NIOSH

5 ppm

C (10 min/day)

NIOSH

5 ppm

Short-Term Exposure (15 min)

OSHA

1 ppm

TWA (8 hrs)

OSHA

Sources: NIOSH, OSHA, EPA

Measuring Ethylene Oxide

Ethylene oxide concentration in the air can be measured in units of parts per million (ppm). We carry portable and fixed ethylene oxide monitors and kits, and all of our ethylene oxide products can be viewed HERE.

Contact us for help choosing the right monitor for your application