ignition source and flash back. Ethylene oxide vapor forms explosive mixtures with air at concentrations of 3 to 100% (by volume). Carbon dioxide or dry chemical extinguishers should be used for ethylene oxide fires. Ethylene oxide may explode when heated in a closed vessel.

Reactivity and Incompatibility

Ethylene oxide can undergo violent polymerization, which can be initiated by contact with metal surfaces, strong acids or bases, alkali metals, iron oxide or chloride, and aluminum chloride.

Storage and Handling

Because of its carcinogenicity, flammability, and reactivity, ethylene oxide should be handled using the ''basic prudent practices" of Chapter 5.C, supplemented by the additional precautions for work with compounds of high chronic toxicity (Chapter 5.D) and extremely flammable substances (Chapter 5.F). In particular, work with ethylene oxide should be conducted in a fume hood to prevent exposure by inhalation, and appropriate impermeable gloves and splash goggles should be worn at all times to prevent skin and eye contact. Ethylene oxide should be used only in areas free of ignition sources and should be stored in the cold in tightly sealed containers placed within a secondary container.

Accidents

In the event of skin contact, immediately wash with soap and water and remove contaminated clothing. In case of eye contact, promptly wash with copious amounts of water for 15 min (lifting upper and lower lids occasionally) and obtain medical attention. If ethylene oxide is ingested, obtain medical attention immediately. If large amounts of this compound are inhaled, move the person to fresh air and seek medical attention at once.

In the event of a spill of liquid ethylene oxide, remove all ignition sources, soak up the ethylene oxide with a spill pillow or absorbent material, place in an appropriate container, and dispose of properly. In the event of accidental release of ethylene oxide gas, evacuate the area and eliminate the source of the release, such as a leaking cylinder, if possible. Respiratory protection may be necessary in the event of a large spill or release in a confined area.

Disposal

Excess ethylene oxide and waste material containing this substance should be placed in an appropriate container, clearly labeled, and handled according to your institution's waste disposal guidelines. For more information on disposal procedures, see Chapter 7 of this volume.



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