What is ethylene oxide?
Ethylene oxide (EtO) is a flammable, colorless gas at temperatures above 51.3 ºF (10.7 ºC) that smells like ether at toxic levels. EtO is found in the production of solvents, antifreeze, textiles, detergents, adhesives, polyurethane foam, and pharmaceuticals. Smaller amounts are present in fumigants, sterilants for spices and cosmetics, as well as during hospital sterilization of surgical equipment.
How can ethylene oxide harm workers?
In addition to eye pain and sore throat, exposure to EtO can cause difficult breathing and blurred vision. Exposure can also cause dizziness, nausea, headache, convulsions, blisters and can result in vomiting and coughing. Both human and animal studies show that EtO is a carcinogen that may cause leukemia and other cancers. EtO is also linked to spontaneous abortion, genetic damage, nerve damage, peripheral paralysis, muscle weakness, as well as impaired thinking and memory. In liquid form, EtO can cause severe skin irritation upon prolonged or confined contact
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