Glycol Information



Other Names

Propylene Glycol, 1,2-propanediol; Ethylene Glycol, 1,2-ethanediol

Chemical Formula

C3H8O2 (propylene); C2H6O2 (ethylene)

CAS Number

57 – 55 – 6 (propylene); 107 – 21 – 1 (ethylene)

Industry Uses

Pharmaceuticals ; Antifreeze

Health Risks

Irritant; Respiratory Symptoms; Kidney damage

Proplylene Glycol MSDS

Ethylene Glycol MSDS

What is Glycol?

Ethylene glycol and propylene glycol are the primary ingredients in comercially-available antifreezes. They are used with corrosion inhibitors to protect metal surfaces in cooling water systems. Propylene glycol is a clear, colorless, viscous solvent that is miscible with water. It is used as a solvent for pharmaceutical preparations. Lorazepam contains the highest amount of propylene glycol of commonly used medications. Propylene glycol is very toxic to aquatic life and leaves lasting damage.

Ethylene glycol is a polyether compound that is colorless, odorless, and has a sweet taste. It is poisonous if ingested. Ethylene glycol is the most important glycol commercially available and is used as an antifreeze and coolant, in the manufacture of low-freezing dynamites and resins, and in the synthesis of some medications.

Glycol Exposure and Health Risks

Large doses of propylene glycol can be toxic, especially if given over a short period of time. Propylene glycol toxicity causes serum hyperosmolality, lactic acidosis, kidney failure, and proximal tubular necrosis. Propylene glycol toxicity can also appear as sepsis or systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). Propylene glycol can be harmful if swallowed and can cause serious eye damage or irritation.

Low levels of ethylene glycol inhalation can cause throat and respiratory tract irritation. Ethylene glycol exposure by ingestion causes three stages of health effects: central nervous system depression, cardiopulmonary effects, and renal damage. Effects can be severe enough to be lethal. There is also evidence that ethylene glycol is fetotoxic, causing harm to fetuses.


There are no listed regulations or restrictions for the concentration of dissolved propylene or ethylene glycol.

Measuring Glycol

Dissolved glycol concentration in water can be measured in units of parts per million (ppm). We carry kits from CHEMetrics that determine glycol levels in water, ranging from 0-15 ppm up to 10-150 ppm. Test results from the kit are expressed as ppm ethylene glycol. To convert to ppm propylene glycol, multiply by two. The kits are used to monitor potable waters for glycol contamination originating from glycol in cooling systems. They are also used to detect glycol in storm water effluent and airplane deicing operations and to monitor glycol recycling operations. All of our glycol products can be viewed HERE.

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