Someone asked for the dirt on ethylene glycol, well.....it really is not a
heinous nasty molecule. I hear the eco-warriors at my school carry on
like the stuff is some sort of chloro-benzyl type bioconcentrating
pesticide. It is not.
OH-CH2-CH2-OH thats it!
It biodegrades easily in soil and water. In air it reacts with hydroxyl
radicals and degrades rapidly (T1/2 = 1 day). It does not bioconcentrate
in animal or marine life. Disposal into any municipal type sewer system
is O.K. If the stuff is not completely degraded by the time it get to the
treatment plant (it probably is) then the hungry little microbes at the
plant that do such a good job of eating our poop will gladly and easily
finish the job. Hell, dump it out behind the barn... just make sure that
you spread it out AND DONT LEAVE PUDDLES!
This stuff is very dangerous because it tastes sweet! In adults the
lethal dose is approx 100ml (a bit less that 1/3 of a can of beer - I cant
afford bottles). If sure it is much less in children & animals.
Ethylene glycol itself is not that toxic, the problem is that as soon as
the stuff hits our kidneys it begins to get oxidized and one of the
oxidation products is oxalic acid. The kidneys are severely damaged by the
deposition of oxalate crystals. Interestingly, the antidote for ethylene
glycol poisoning is to drink an intoxicating dose of ethanol! This is
because ethanol effectively competes for the enzyme (alcohol
dehydrogenase) that begins the oxidation of ethylene glycol. The ethylene
glycol is then excreted harmlessly.
So, the next time you spill the stuff in the driveway just blast the hell
out of it with the garden hose & go have a beer. If some righteous
save-the-planet type labels you as an immoral, whale killing, ozone hole
punching, R-12 loving, disposable diper wearing eco-satan, please set them
Scott McPherson 86 5kcs Q-less in Syracuse
Graduate Student - SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry,