Ethylene glycol

CAS Registry Number 107-21-1

What is it?

  • Ethylene glycol is an industrial chemical.

How is it used?

  • Ethylene glycol is primarily used as a component of de-icer and anti-icer/anti-freeze fluid used in aircraft de-icing and anti-icing operations, and as an anti-freeze component in motor vehicles.
  • It is also used in the manufacture of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and in oil and gas processing.
  • Ethylene glycol is present as a slow-evaporating solvent and/or freeze-thaw stabilizer in latex paints.
  • It can also be used in a variety of other products such as floor and wall adhesives, brake fluid, automotive wax/polish and floor wax/polish, in caulks and grout, concrete sealers and shoe polish.
  • Ethylene glycol is manufactured in and imported into Canada.

Why did the Government of Canada assess it?

  • Ethylene glycol was included on the Priority Substances List (PSL) in order to assess its potential environmental and human health risks posed by exposure (not including workplace exposures) to the general population of Canada.
  • In December 2000, the assessment of ethylene glycol was temporarily suspended to allow government scientists more time to address the data gaps, identified during the assessment period, that were related to the human health effects of ethylene glycol and how Canadians are exposed to this chemical.
  • At the same time, a State of the Science Report for Ethylene Glycol was posted on the Health Canada Web site.
  • The essential information needed to complete the assessment was identified and acquired during subsequent years, and has been incorporated into the final updated assessment report.

How is it released to the environment?

  • Most releases of ethylene glycol to the environment are expected to occur from aircraft de-icing/anti-icing operations.
  • These releases of ethylene glycol are expected to end up in surface water or groundwater.
  • Based on handling practices currently in place, such releases should be low.
  • Releases of ethylene glycol to outdoor and indoor air may also occur from manufacturing and processing facilities and from use of consumer products.

How are Canadians exposed to it?

  • Canadians may be exposed to low levels of ethylene glycol through the use of consumer products containing ethylene glycol.

What are the results of the assessment?

  • The Government of Canada has conducted an evaluation of ethylene glycol, and published the results in a final assessment report.
  • Results of the final assessment indicate that ethylene glycol is not expected to remain in the environment for a long time or accumulate in organisms.
  • Furthermore, the quantity of ethylene glycol that may be released to the environment is below the level expected to cause harm to organisms.
  • The Government of Canada has therefore concluded that ethylene glycol is not entering the environment in a quantity or under conditions that constitute a danger to the environment.
  • The Government of Canada has also concluded that ethylene glycol is not harmful to the health of the general population at current levels of exposure.
  • This assessment addresses the potential for harm to the general population in Canada (not including workplace exposures).

What is the Government of Canada doing?

  • Based on the conclusion of the final assessment, no further action will be taken on ethylene glycol at this time.
  • The final assessment report was published on April 17, 2010.

What can Canadians do?

  • The health risks associated with a chemical depend on the hazard (its potential to cause health effects) and the dose (the amount of chemical to which you are exposed).
  • Ethylene glycol is not presently a concern for the environment or human health at current levels of exposure. However, Canadians are reminded when using any product, to carefully follow any safety warnings and directions.
  • Canadians who handle this substance in the workplace should consult with their occupational health and safety representative about safe handling practices, applicable laws and requirements under the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System.

Page details

Date modified: