Ethylene oxide / C₂H₄O

Ethylene oxide

Gas Identification

Other denomination
1,2-Epoxyethane, Oxirane
CAS Registry Number
SCBA type

Chemical properties

Molecular formula
Molecular mass
44,1 g/mol

Physical properties

Boiling point
11 °C
Autoignition temperature
429 °C
Gas/Vapour density
10,56 eV

Flammability limit

3 %v/v
100 % v/v

Threshold limit value

1 ppm
5 ppm

Ethylene oxide : Description and use


Ethylene oxide is the simplest organic compound in the epoxide category. It is a cyclic ether. It is essential in the chemical industry, for the production of ethylene glycol among other things, as well as in the pharmaceutical and agri-food industries. Ethylene oxide was first synthesised by Charles Adolphe Wurtz in 1859, by making 2-chloroethanol react with a base. It became hugely significant in the eyes of the manufacturers during the First World War, where it was used to make ethylene glycol (as a refrigerant) and a chemical weapon (mustard gas or Yperite).
It is a colourless liquefied-compressed gas with a characteristic odour.

  • As a raw material in the chemical industry used to make several compounds: ethylene glycol and derived polymers, glycol ethers, surfactants, ethanolamines, acrylonitrile, etc.
  • To sterilise medical and surgical equipment when combined with inert gases (carbon dioxide, nitrogen).
  • As a steriliser and disinfectant in the textile and cosmetic industries.

Ethylene oxide : Warnings and caution

GHS hazard statements

H220 - Extremely flammable gas.
H350 - May cause cancer.
H340 - May cause genetic defects.
H331 - Toxic if inhaled.
H319 - Causes serious eye irritation.
H335 - May cause respiratory irritation.
H315 - Causes skin irritation.

GHS precautionary statements

P210 - Keep away from heat, sparks, open flames, hot surfaces. No smoking.
P280 - Wear protective gloves/protective clothing/eye protection/face protection.
P 260 - Do not breathe gas
P304+P340 - IF INHALED: Remove victim to fresh air and keep at rest in a position comfortable for breathing.
P362+P364 - Take off contaminated clothing and wash before reuse.
P305+P351+P338 - IF IN EYES: Rinse cautiously with water for several minutes. Remove contact lenses, if present and easy to do. Continue rinsing.

SGH02 : Inflammable
SGH04 : Gaz sous pression
SGH06 : Toxique
SGH08 : Sensibilisant, mutagène, cancérogène, reprotoxique