Ethylene Oxide

Ethylene oxide is the organic compound with the formula C2H4O. Its also called Oxirane, Epoxyethane, Dimethylene oxide and Eto. This colorless flammable gas with a faintly sweet odor is the simplest epoxide, a three-membered ring consisting of two carbon and one oxygen atom.
It is commonly handled and shipped as a refrigerated liquid. It is the chief precursor to ethylene glycol and other high-volume chemicals but is also used for medical sterilization. Ethylene oxide is produced by oxidation of ethylene with oxygen at circa 250 °C over a catalyst comprising metallic silver supported on alumina.
Ethylene oxide is toxic by inhalation. Symptoms of overexposure include headache and dizziness, progressing with increasing exposure to convulsions, seizure and coma. It is also an irritant to skin and the respiratory tract, and inhaling the vapors may cause the lungs to fill with fluid several hours after exposure.
When it comes to Ethylene Oxide Detection, Airmet can offer you the best solution for your application. We have a wide range of portable and fixed instruments suitable for most applications.
Ethylene Oxide Characteristics
Synonyms EtO, Oxirane, 1,2-Epoxyethane
CAS No. 75-21-8
Chemical formula C2H4O
Vapour density 1.52 (air = 1)
Safe Work Australia ES TWA 1 ppm (Category 2 carcinogen) (1)
Flammable limits LEL 2.6 % by volume
UEL 100 % by volume (2)
Equipment group IIB
Temperature classification T2
Chemical/physical properties EtO, at room temperature, is a colourless gas with an ether-like odour, reportedly not detectable by smell at concentrations below about 260 ppm.
EtO is extremely flammable and is subject to explosive decomposition under certain conditions (e.g. if heated to 570 °C).
Hazardous properties Apart from its flammability, EtO, if inhaled or by skin contact, can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, nose and throat; nausea; headache; breathing difficulties and drowsiness. It is suspected of being associated with increased risk of leukaemia, pancreatic cancer, Hodgkin’s disease and spontaneous abortion.
Occurrence/Uses The main uses of EtO are as an intermediate in the chemical industry for the production of substances such as ethylene glycol and as a sterilising agent for heat sensitive items in medical facilities.
Detectors available Electrochemical (0 – 100 ppm)
Photoionisation (PID) (0 – 20,000 ppm)
Gas detector tube (0.1 ppm – 4.0 % by volume)
Suggested alarm levels Lo: 1 ppm
Hi: 3 ppm
Notes (1) Probable human carcinogen.
(2) EtO can ignite in the absence of air if heated to 570 °C.


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