Acta Med. 2010, 53: 19-23

Ethylene Glycol, Hazardous Substance in the Household

Jiří Patočkaa,b, Zdeněk Honb

aInstitute of Applied Economical Studies, Department of Technical and Environmental Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic
bUniversity of South Bohemia, Faculty of Health and Social Studies, Department of Radiology and Toxicology, České Budějovice, Czech Republic

Received August 19, 2009
Accepted February 10, 2010

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.


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