A review of the comparative mammalian toxicity of ethylene glycol and propylene glycol

Crit Rev Toxicol. 1999 Jul;29(4):331-65. doi: 10.1080/10408449991349230.


The purpose of this article is to review and interpret the scientific literature on the mammalian toxicity of ethylene glycol (EG) and propylene glycol (PG), with the goal of comparing the toxicity of the two chemicals. This type of review may serve as the basis for risk management decision-making. Because EG is not a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) chemical, its uses are restricted when compared with PG; thus, certain routes of exposure are not relevant here for toxicological comparison (e.g., subcutaneous, intramuscular, and intravenous). Therefore, this review is focused on the oral, inhalation, and dermal routes of exposure. However, where toxicological data derived from an alternative route of exposure serve to eludicate mechanisms of toxicity, data from these routes are considered. Based on the review provided herein, the following conclusions can be drawn. From the standpoint of lethality, acute effects, and reproductive, developmental, and kidney toxicity, the toxicity of EG exceeds that of PG. Further, localized dermal effects from EG and PG are both mild, with data suggesting that PG may have a skin contact sensitization potential. Finally, PG exposure in laboratory animals has been associated with reversible hematological changes; no data were located for EG from which to draw a toxicological comparison.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Ethylene Glycol / administration & dosage
  • Ethylene Glycol / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced
  • Mammals
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Propylene Glycol / administration & dosage
  • Propylene Glycol / toxicity*


  • Propylene Glycol
  • Ethylene Glycol