What Is ethylene oxide and why is it dangerous? Find out how to ensure a safe and healthy environment at all times.
What is ethylene oxide?
Ethylene oxide (EtO) is an organic compound, defined by the formula C2H4O. It is a colorless and flammable gas with a slightly sweet odor.
Where is it used?
Ethylene oxide is used in the production of solvents, cleaning and binding agents, antifreeze, textiles, polyurethane foam and pharmaceuticals.
Because the gas leaves no residue on objects it comes into contact with, smaller amounts are occur in disinfectants for spices and cosmetics or in sterilants of medical equipment in hospitals.
“Ethylene oxide is a carcinogen, classified as a Group 1 carcinogen.”
~ International Agency for Research on Cancer
Is ethylene oxide toxic?
EtO is a poisonous gas and can show symptoms after already a short exposure. The gas is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
In the first place, symptoms may be eye pain, blurry vision, sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, headache, cramping, blisters, vomiting. In addition, the risk of miscarriage in female workers, impairment of testicular function and sperm concentration may be increased. Secondly, with long-term exposure, it can lead to genetic damage, nerve damage, leukemia, lymphoma and breast cancer.
Workers in the medical services, chemical, rubber and plastics industries are at increased risk of exposure to ethylene oxide. It is therefore important to keep this gas well under control.
How to cope with it?
In order to protect yourself and your employees from exposure to ethylene oxide, there are a number of strict precautions you can take to avoid inhalation or skin contact with the gas. Think of process housing, ventilation systems, eye and safety showers, protective clothing, safety glasses…
In addition, it is highly recommended to perform continuous exposure measurements. Thanks to permanent, real-time monitoring, you can closely monitor the gas, allowing you to act proactively to completely avoid outbreaks or increases in gas.
“Thanks to real-time monitoring, you can act proactively and guarantee a safe working environment.”
Continuous monitoring in practice
In collaboration with Euromate, InsightAir offers permanent monitoring of ethylene oxide to a Dutch customer. More specifically, this concerns the monitoring in four industrial halls, each of which has 100,000 cubic meters per hall.
InsightAir’s online platform includes an early warning system that detects rising EtO concentrations and sends a signals to its users. Additionally, InsightAir has made the local industrial air purifiers and ventilation systems smart. When reaching the predefined limit, the local industrial air purifier/ ventilation will start working automatically.
This automation is possible by linking the monitor and the air purifier/ ventilation with the InsightAir Air Quality Controller. By setting the limit of EtO well before the legal limit value, and thanks to the combination of the online platform and the Air Quality Controller, a safe working environment can be guaranteed for the employees.