Ethylene Oxide


Ethylene Oxide is a highly toxic, flammable and reactive gas. It has a wide range of flammable concentrations in air (3% to 100%) and may polymerize violently in the presence of certain metals. Ethylene oxide is a carcinogen, teratogen and a reproductive toxin. Spontaneous decomposition of ethylene oxide when exposed to heat can raise the temperature by 1130F in 2 milliseconds.

Emergency Procedures

Skin Contact: Skin contact may cause thermal burns and irritation. Frostbite may occur from contact with the liquid. Flush affected areas immediately with copious amounts of water for at least 15 minutes. Seek medical attention, as needed.

Eye Contact: Contact lenses are not recommended for persons with potential for exposure to ethylene oxide. Immediately flush with water for at least 15 minutes. Seek immediate medical attention.

Inhalation: Low concentrations inhaled will cause delayed nausea. Inhalation of high concentrations results in a narcotic and possible neurotoxic effect, possibly followed by coughing, vomiting, and irritation to the respiratory passages which will eventually lead to emphysema, bronchitis, and pulmonary edema. It has been reported to cause rapid olfactory fatigue. PROMPT MEDICAL ATTENTION IS MANDATORY IN ALL CASES OF OVEREXPOSURE. Conscious persons should be assisted to an uncontaminated area, made to recline, kept warm, and given warm water in amounts adequate to purge their stomachs of the ethylene oxide contamination. In the event of severe exposure, oxygen should also be administered by a competent person. Unconscious persons should be moved to an uncontaminated area and given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and supplemental oxygen. Once respiration has been restored, treatment should be as above.

Ingestion: Not a likely route of exposure. Consult a poison control center or physician.


Earth-ground and bond all lines and equipment associated with the system. All electrical equipment should be non-sparking or explosion proof. Ensure that fire extinguishers are available. Ethylene oxide stored in the liquid state can be maintained free of explosion hazard in the gaseous phase by the introduction of nitrogen at sufficient pressure. At 70F (21C) a nitrogen pressure of 32.6 psig (225 kPa) is required. Store below 130F

Use only stainless steel or nickel. Ethylene oxide decomposes or polymerizes violently on contact with potassium, tin, zinc, aluminum, iron oxides, copper, silver, mercury, magnesium and their alloys. It will also react violently with caustic soda, hydrated lime, magnesium chloride, ammonia, alcohols and amines. Ethylene Oxide will attack most forms of plastic, rubber and coatings.


Consider using leak detection and alarm systems. Store and use in a fume hood or ventilated gas cabinet free of ignition sources. Follow all applicable recommendations for storage and handling of compressed gases.


Ethylene Oxide cylinders should be returned to the compressed gas distributor when emptied or no longer used.

Section 10 Chemical List