What is Ethylene Glycol?

Ethylene glycol is an 'organic compound' that is extremely toxic. It is a clear, odourless, viscous liquid that has a sweet taste. Ethylene glycol finds extensive use in the industrial and commercial sectors. Ethylene glycol meant the glycol which is derived from Ethylene.

The chemical has both antifreeze and coolant properties. Ethylene glycol keeps your vehicle running during the winter season by not letting the engine freeze. Similarly, during the summer season, it acts as a coolant that keeps your vehicle running by preventing the engine's overheating.

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Structure of Ethylene Glycol

Ethylene glycol is also known as Monoethylene glycol. It is produced when ethylene oxide chemically reacts with water. The chemical formula of Ethylene glycol is C2H6O2. The chemical structure of Ethylene glycol is as follows:

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What are the Uses of Ethylene Glycol?

Ethylene glycol is a viscous liquid that acts as a raw material in the manufacturing of:

  • An ingredient for making automotive coolant and antifreeze products.

  • They are extensively used in the manufacturing of polyester fibres.

  • It is a reagent used in making explosives, synthetic waxes, and alkyd resins.

  • It is also used in manufacturing fibreglass for bathtubs, bowling balls, and jet skis.

  • It is also used in making industrial coolants for ventilation, gas compressors, air-conditioning systems, heating, and ice-skating rinks.

What is the Molar Mass of Ethylene Glycol?

The molar mass of any chemical compound is the sum total of the atomic mass of every element that forms it. Ethylene glycol is composed of 6 hydrogens, two carbon, and two oxygen atoms. So,

M (molar mass of Ethylene glycol) = 12 (carbon atomic mass) x 2 + 1 (hydrogen atomic mass) x 6 + 16 (oxygen atomic mass) x 2 = 62.07(g/mol).

Did You Know?

Ethylene glycol is too poisonous for consumption for humans or pets. It may lead to severe illness and, in extreme cases, even death. The tricky part is that ethylene glycol's taste is appealing to pets like dogs and cats. A tablespoon of ethylene glycol is fatal for your dog, while one teaspoon is enough for death for a cat. If by accident, your pet has consumed the chemical, an antidote should be given immediately.

Properties of Ethylene Glycol – C2H6O2

The chemical formula of Ethylene glycol


Molar mass/Molecular weight

62.07 g/mol

Melting point

-12.9 °C


1.11 g/cm³

Boiling point

197.3 °C

How to Produce Ethylene Glycol?

There are different methods to produce Ethylene glycol; some of these are given below:

  1. From Ethylene

Hydroxylation of Ethylene produces Ethylene glycol. When treated with Baeyer's reagent (Cold dilute alkaline- solution of Potassium Permanganate), ethylene leads to hydroxylation at both Carbon atoms.

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In this way, Ethylene glycol is produced from Ethylene.

  1. From Ethylene Oxide

Hydrolysis of ethylene oxide produces Ethylene glycol. Ethylene oxide produced by ethylene's catalytic oxidation when hydrolyzed in the presence of acid at high temperature yields Ethylene oxide.

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Fun Facts

  • Ethylene glycol is miscible with water.

  • It is the simplest member of the glycol family.

  • It is slightly flammable.

  • It takes about ten days for Ethylene glycol to break down in the air.

  • It vigorously reacts with oxidizing agents.

  • Acrid smoke is emitted when heated to decompose. It emits irritating fumes that are hazardous.

How can Ethylene Glycol Reach the Environment?

There are different ways by which Ethylene glycol disseminate into the environment.

Indoor Air

Ethylene glycol can be released into indoor areas polluting the air as a liquid spray (aerosol), Vapor, or mist.


Ethylene glycol can contaminate water. It is odourless and mixes with water with ease.


Ethylene glycol is a compound that can contaminate food.


Ethylene glycol can be released into outdoor areas polluting the air as a liquid spray (aerosol), Vapor, or mist.


If ethylene glycol is released as a liquid spray(aerosol) or mist, it may contaminate agricultural products; however, it is unlikely to contaminate the agricultural products if it is released as a vapour.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1.  What is Ethylene Glycol Poisoning?

Ans. Consumption of ethylene glycol is very harmful as it is a poisonous chemical substance. The feeling of drinking alcohol is the first symptom after consuming Ethylene glycol. Later other symptoms emerge that include nausea, convulsions, vomiting, unconsciousness, and in extreme cases, it may result in the death of the person. However, an antidote is available to save a person's life, but the antidote must be given immediately.

It is to be noted that skin contact with a smaller quantity of Ethylene glycol will not adversely affect your health. A person working on his vehicle may accidentally touch the anti-freezing solution but will not be affected, only when Ethylene glycol ingested in large amounts may cause serious health hazards.

Q2.  How is Ethylene Glycol Harmful to Humans?

Ans. When ethylene glycol enters the human body, it breaks down and forms chemicals. These chemicals later become crystals and start accumulating in different organs of our body. One example is the formation of crystals in the kidney. These crystals adversely affect the normal functioning of the kidney. Moreover, Ethylene glycol creates acidic chemicals in our bodies. These chemicals can change the body's acid/base balance, thus affecting the lungs, heart, and nervous system of the human body.

If human eyes are exposed to vapours of Ethylene glycol, it may irritate the eyes. Direct exposure to chemicals may cause swelling of eyelids, cornea, and inflammation of iris, conjunctiva, or cornea injury.

Q3.  What is the Environmental Impact of Ethylene Glycol?

Ans. Ethylene glycol is an industrial chemical compound that is produced in large volumes. The compound, when it reaches the environment in large quantities, may be harmful. It usually takes ten days to break down in the air, while it takes a few weeks to break it down in soil and water. It enters the environment through different means, such as products that contain Ethylene glycol. One such place is the airports. For aircraft and runway, Ethylene glycol is a de-icing agent.

Exposure in low doses isn't harmful, while it acts as a teratogen when available in high quantities. This may result in severe congenital disabilities of the unborn child.