Chemical Fact Sheet

Chemical Abstract Number (CAS #) 75218
CASRN 75-21-8
SynonymsEthylene oxide
Analytical Methods EPA Method 8260
Molecular FormulaC2H4O

Link to the National Library of Medicine's Hazardous Substances
Database for more details on this compound.

Use RIPENING AGENT FOR FRUITS, FUNGISTAT INACTIVATES KREB'S ASCITES TUMOR CELLS TO ACCELERATE THE MATURING OF TOBACCO LEAVES ROCKET PROPELLANT FUMIGANT FOR FOODSTUFFS & TEXTILES; IN ORGANIC SYNTHESIS; STERILIZE SURGICAL INSTRUMENTS; AGRICULTURAL FUNGICIDE STARTING MATERIAL FOR MFR OF ACRYLONITRILE AND NONIONIC SURFACTANTS. USEFUL FOR FUMIGATING INSECTS IN PACKAGED CEREALS, BAGGED RICE, TOBACCO, & CLOTHING & FURS IN VAULTS. IT IS ALSO USED IN VAULTS FOR FUMIGATING VALUABLE PACKAGED DOCUMENTS. FOR TREATMENT BY FUMIGATION OF BOOKS; DENTAL, PHARMACEUTICAL, MEDICAL & SCIENTIFIC EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES, DRUGS; LEATHER; MOTOR OIL; PAPER; SOIL; BEDDING FOR EXPERIMENTAL ANIMALS; FURNITURE; & TRANSPORTATION VEHICLES . Formation of diethylene glycol, the cellosolves and carbitols, dioxane, ethylene chlorohydrin and polymer (carbowax); intermediate for polyethylene terephthalate polyester fiber. CHEM INTERMEDIATE STERILANT & SPOROCIDE-EG, IN HEALTH CARE INDUST Used as a fumigation agent on beehives (empty and diseased), beekeeping equipment . Used on hospital equipment including: hypodermic needles/syringes, surgical prosthetic parts, heart and lung machines, dental, hospital and laboratory instruments, heat labile materials, moisture labile materials, oral and inhalation equipment, diagnostic instruments/equipment, hospital critical rubber, plastic items, hospital critical equipment, thermometers, laboratory equipment, pharmaceutical equipment, stainless steel surfaces; and on hospital fabrics, materials, paper products, sheeting, grooming instruments. Chemical intermediate for ethylene glycols, ethanolamines, glycol ethers & surfactants.
Consumption Patterns CHEM INT FOR ETHYLENE GLYCOL, 60.5%; CHEM INT FOR NONIONIC SURFACTANTS (ACYCLIC), 7.1%; CHEM INT FOR NONIONIC SURFACTANTS (CYCLIC), 4.6%; CHEM INT FOR GLYCOL ETHERS, 7.2%; CHEM INT FOR ETHANOLAMINES, 7.1%; CHEM INT FOR DIETHYLENE GLYCOL, 5.1%; CHEM INT FOR TRIETHYLENE GLYCOL, 2.1%; CHEM INT FOR POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL, 1.6%; OTHER, 4.7% (1981) Monoethylene glycol, 59%; higher glycols, 15%; ethoxylates, 10%; ethanolamines, 6%; glycol ethers, 5%; miscellaneous, 5% (1984) CHEMICAL PROFILE: Ethylene oxide. Ethylene glycol, 59%; nonionic surfactants, 14%; ethanolamines, 8%; glycol ethers, 6%; diethylene glycol, 6%, triethylene glycol, 2%; miscellaneous, including polyethylene glycol, urethane polyols and exports, 5%. CHEMICAL PROFILE: Ethylene oxide. Demand: 1986: 5.7 billion lb; 1987: 5.8 billion lb; 1991 /projected/: 6.4 billion lb. CHEMICAL PROFILE: Ethylene oxide. Ethylene glycol, 59%; nonionic surfactants, 13%; ethanolamines, 8%; glycol ethers, 6%; diethylene glycol, 6%, triethylene glycol, 2%; miscellaneous, including polyethylene glycol, urethane polyols and exports, 6%. CHEMICAL PROFILE: Ethylene oxide. Demand: 1989: 5.8 billion lb; 1990 projected/: 5.9 billion lb; 1994 projected/: 6.4 billion lb. (Imports and exports are negligible, each on the order of 25 million lb per year.)
Odor Sweet ; ETHER-LIKE ODOR ; Reminiscent of bruised apples
Boiling Point 10.7 DEG C @ 760 MM HG
Melting Point -112.5 DEG C
Molecular Weight 44.06
Density 0.8222 @ 10 DEG C/10 DEG C
Odor Threshold Concentration 50 ppm Recognition: 1.5 mg/cu m= 0.8 ppm, mean detection concn: 700 ppm; absolute perception limit: 260 ppm; 50% recognition: 500 ppm; 100% recognition: 500 ppm Low: 520 mg/cu m; High: 1400 mg/cu m
Sensitivity Data Aqueous solutions of ethylene oxide or solutions formed when the anhydrous cmpd comes in contact with moist skin are irritating and may lead to a severe dermatitis with blisters, blebs and burns. It is also absorbed by leather and rubber and may produce burns or irritation. Allergic eczematous dermatitis has also been reported. Exposure to the vapor in high concn leads to irritation of the eyes. Severe eye damage may result if the liquid is splashed in the eyes. Large amounts of ethylene oxide evaporating from the skin may cause frostbite.
Environmental Impact Ethylene oxide will primarily enter the atmosphere in association with its production and use as a chemical intermediate as well as its relatively minor use as a sterilant and fumigant. From its industrial use, some ethylene oxide will be discharged into water. Once in the atmosphere it will degrade by reaction with hydroxyl-radicals (estimated half-life 1 wk) or return to earth in rain. Releases into water will be removed by evaporation, hydrolysis and to a lesser extent, biodegradation. The half-life for its removal from the aquatic environment will range from hours to 2 wks. Ethylene oxide will not adsorb strongly to soil or bioconcentrate in fish, although its presence in some food items may result from its use as a fumigant and sterilant. Major human exposure will be from occupational atmospheres.
Environmental Fate TERRESTRIAL FATE: When released on land, ethylene oxide would tend to volatilize rapidly. It is miscible in water and poorly adsorbed to soil so leaching into the groundwater is likely to occur. Although experimental data is lacking, hydrolysis in soil is probable. AQUATIC FATE: When released into water ethylene oxide will primarily be lost by three processes: volatilization, hydrolysis and biodegradation in that order of importance. Volatilization will depend on wind and mixing conditions and would be expected to occur in hours to days. The half-life for hydrolysis is 9-14 days leading to biodegradable products. Because of the lack of data, it is difficult to estimate the rate of biodegradation; the available data would suggest that the biodegradation rate is slower than the volatilization and hyrdrolysis rates. Ethylene oxide would not tend to adsorb to sediment. In groundwater, ethylene oxide will degrade due to hydrolysis. ATMOSPHERIC FATE: Ethylene oxide will degrade in the atmosphere primarily by reaction with hydroxyl radicals. Based on limited experimental data, one would estimate the half-life of ethylene oxide in the atmosphere to be approximately 1 week. Since ethylene oxide is miscible in water, one would expect it to wash out in rain. EFFL: Detected, not quantified in 1 effluent sample in Brandenburg, KY in Feb 1974, a production facility(1,2).

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