Ethylene Glycol, Hazardous Substance in the Household

Acta Medica (Hradec Kralove). 2010;53(1):19-23.

Abstract

Ethylene glycol is a colorless, odorless, sweet-tasting but poisonous type of alcohol found in many household products. The major use of ethylene glycol is as an antifreeze in, for example, automobiles, in air conditioning systems, in de-icing fluid for windshields, and else. People sometimes drink ethylene glycol mistakenly or on purpose as a substitute for alcohol. Ethylene glycol is toxic, and its drinking should be considered a medical emergency. The major danger from ethylene glycol is following ingestion. Due to its sweet taste, peoples and occasionally animals will sometimes consume large quantities of it if given access to antifreeze. While ethylene glycol itself has a relatively low degree of toxicity, its metabolites are responsible for extensive cellular damage to various tissues, especially the kidneys. This injury is caused by the metabolites, glycolic and oxalic acid and their respective salts, through crystal formation and possibly other mechanisms. Toxic metabolites of ethylene glycol can damage the brain, liver, kidneys, and lungs. The poisoning causes disturbances in the metabolism pathways, including metabolic acidosis. The disturbances may be severe enough to cause profound shock, organ failure, and death. Ethylene glycol is a common poisoning requiring antidotal treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethylene Glycol / pharmacokinetics
  • Ethylene Glycol / poisoning*
  • Household Products / poisoning*
  • Humans

Substances

  • Ethylene Glycol