Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Propylene Glycol Dangers

Propylene Glycol Dangers

Propylene glycol serves as a principal component of fiberglass, antifreeze, engine coolants and deicers. The chemical is fairly safe but can irritate your stomach, skin and eyes and catch fire under the right conditions. The information presented here reflects the dangers faced by people who use propylene glycol in industrial quantities and settings. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that the very small amounts of the chemical appearing in foods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals pose no known health risks to people or animals other than cats.

Stomach Upset

People who ingest large amounts of propylene glycol can experience stomach pain and nausea. Drinking between 3 oz. and 4 oz. (approximately 100 mL) of liquid propylene glycol produces only minor gastrointestinal problems. When people do ingest large amounts of propylene glycol, they should not induce vomiting but should contact their local Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222 to get instructions on treat the problem.

Breathing Problems

At regular atmospheric pressure, propylene glycol converts from a liquid to a gas at a temperature (i.e., flash point) of 225 degrees F (107 degrees C). Propylene glycol will usually not cause problems in well-ventilated areas, but people can experience breathing problems if the fumes accumulate in areas where air does not circulate. People who have trouble breathing due to high concentrations of propylene fumes should recover quickly when going outside and breathing fresh air. Supplemental oxygen may be needed for people who have inhaled a great deal of propylene glycol.

Skin Irritation

People can experience mild skin irritation when spilling liquid propylene glycol on themselves or their clothing. Removing any clothing on which the chemical has spilled and washing exposed areas of skin with soap and water will usually stop and relieve the irritation. If the propylene glycol exposure has caused a rash, applying an antibacterial cream should provide relief.

Eye Irritation

Liquid and vaporized propylene glycol can mildly irritate your eyes. If the irritation causes redness and pain, flushing the eyes with cool, sterile water will provide relief. People who wear contacts should also remove and clean their lenses if they experience eye irritation from propylene glycol.


Despite the liquid's use as an engine coolant, propylene glycol fumes will catch fire when heated to a very high temperature. The ignition point of propylene glycol vapor is 700 degrees F (371 degrees C). People can extinguish fires involving propylene glycol with a water spray, water fog, dry fire-suppression powder or foam.

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