Ethylene oxide poisoning has both immediate and chronic consequences on people’s health. Ethylene oxide (EtO) is used to make numerous industrial compounds, including ethylene glycol. It sterilizes medical equipment and fumigants agricultural items. Ethylene oxide is a colorless liquid at temperatures below 51°F and a colorless gas at room temperature.

Moreover, it is used in the production of chemicals for industrial, personal care, and consumer goods. At high concentrations, ethylene oxide may have a pleasant, ether-like odor. However, exposures at undetectable levels may still be detrimental.


Acute ethylene oxide exposure symptoms might appear up to 72 hours after exposure.

Exposure to ethylene oxide may cause the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Frostbite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomit
  • Exhausted
  • Headaches
  • Reproductive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble breathing
  • Eye and skin burns

Ethylene oxide may be harmful to employees, and the severity of the damage varies depending on the scenario.


Acute ethylene oxide poisoning is largely diagnosed clinically, using the exposure history, symptoms of depression or irritation of the central nervous system (CNS), and relevant physical findings.

For all exposed individuals, routine laboratory tests should include CBC, glucose, and electrolyte analyses. Additional examinations for individuals exposed to ethylene oxide may include liver and renal function tests, depending on the results of the first assessment. For severe inhalation exposure, chest radiography and pulse oximetry (or arterial blood gas [ABG] tests) should be taken into consideration.


There is no antidote for ethylene oxide poisoning, and therapy comprises decontamination as well as respiratory and circulatory support.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recommends decontamination and immediate treatment for ethylene oxide exposure.


Anyone who has been exposed will be decontaminated before being treated for significant symptoms. For minimal contamination, rescuers will remove contaminated clothing and cleanse hair and skin for three to five minutes. After removing any contact lenses, the eyes should be washed with water or saline for at least fifteen minutes.

Advanced Therapy

If patients are experiencing difficulty breathing, rescuers will intubate them to assist them in breathing. Aerosolized bronchodilators, which relax the lungs and enhance breathing, may be employed.

People who are unconscious, have seizures, or have an irregular heartbeat will be brought to the hospital and put on advanced life support after being decontaminated.

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