ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




1,2­ethanediol, 1,2­dihydroxyethane, ethylene alcohol, ethylene dihydrate, glycol, glycol alcohol, monoethylene glycol, ethane­1,2­diol, 2­hydroxyethanol.
Hygroscopic, clear, colourless liquid, odourless with a sweet taste. Combustible. Odour threshold 25 ppm.
Ethylene glycol is incompatible with:
Strong oxidants ­ violent reaction.
Perchloric acid ­ violent decomposition on contact, products are explosive on contact with water.
Phosphorus sulphide ­ explosive reaction when heated.
Sulphuric acid ­ violent reaction with an increase in pressure.
Oleum ­ violent reaction with an increase in pressure.
Chlorosulphonic acid ­ violent reaction with an increase in pressure.
A combustible liquid that should never be handled or stored close to heat or a naked flame. It is highly toxic by ingestion with a minimum lethal dose of 100 ml. Systemic effects will result, particularly liver and kidney damage. Urgent treatment is essential. Foetal damage has been reported in laboratory animals. Acute exposure to the eyes from the liquid can cause moderate irritation. Skin contact can produce localised irritation with prolonged contact causing degreasing. Ethylene glycol can be absorbed through the skin but high concentrations are required to produce narcosis. Low volatility of the liquid almost rules out any inhalation hazard except when there is aerosol formation. Symptoms of toxicity are coughing, headache, cyanosis, vomiting, hypotension, amnesia and coma. Ingestion causes intoxication with nausea, vomiting and possible death. If death does not occur then acute kidney failure and brain damage are likely.
Mutagen, do not allow staff who are pregnant to handle this chemical.
Avoid skin contact.
Avoid ingestion.
Keep away from heat or naked flames.
Keep away from strong oxidants.
Keep lid tightly closed.
Wash hands thoroughly after handling.
Use a fume hood to keep the level of exposure below the recommended threshold limit, i.e. 50 ppm (vapour) (NH & MRC, Australia). If exposure is expected to exceed this limit then a respirator is recommended. Wear protective clothing. A long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves (natural rubber, PVC, neoprene or nitrile), safety goggles and a face mask as a minimum standard.
Skin ­ remove contaminated clothes and shoes immediately, wash the affected area with soap or mild detergent and large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has been removed (approximately 15 minutes). Seek medical advice if irritation or pain persist. Wash contaminated clothing before re­use.
Eyes ­ immediately wash the affected eye with large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has been removed (approximately 15 minutes). If irritation or pain persist seek medical advice.
Inhalation ­ remove from the area of exposure to fresh air. If breathing has ceased apply artificial respiration. Keep warm and allow to rest and seek immediate medical attention.
Ingestion ­ wash the mouth with water, then if the victim is conscious give two to four glasses of water or milk to drink and induce vomiting by touching a finger to the back of the throat. If breathing stops apply artificial respiration. Seek immediate medical attention.
Keep the lid tightly closed. Store in a cool, dry atmosphere away from heat or naked flame. Keep away from strong oxidants and other incompatible substances.
Rubber gloves, face shield and laboratory coat. Have an all purpose canister respirator available.
A gas leak: keep the concentration of the gas below the explosive mixture range by forced ventilation. Remove the tank to an open area and allow dissipation to the atmosphere. Attempt to cap the valve outlet and return the tank to the supplier.
A liquid: absorb on paper. Evaporate in an iron pan in a flame proof fume hood then burn the paper.
A solid: sweep on to paper and place in an iron pan in a fume hood. Burn the paper and compound.
A gas leak: pipe the gas into an incinerator or lower into a pit and allow to burn.
A liquid: atomise into an incinerator. Combustion may be improved by mixing with a more flammable solvent.
A solid: make up packages in paper or other flammable material. Burn in the incinerator. Or the solid may be dissolved in a flammable solvent and sprayed into a fire chamber.
This substance is a toxic pollutant and must be contained. It should never be disposed of to sewer.


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