oxide is a highly reactive colourless, odourless and flammable gas
that is typically liquefied for transportation and commercial use.
Liquid ethylene oxide has a faintly sweet odour similar to ether.
Ethylene oxide is used as a fumigant in sterilization processes
for spices and medical supplies, packaged cereals, bagged rice,
tobacco, clothing and furs. It is used as an agricultural fungicide
and as a rocket propellant. Other uses include the production of
textiles, detergents, adhesives, polyurethane, foam, pharmaceuticals
products and ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol in turn is used as
antifreeze and in the production of polyester fibres. Exposure occurs
by inhalation of ethylene oxide gas during various sterilization
or manufacturing processes. Because of its high reactivity, ethylene
oxide will not persist in the environment when released.
Ethylene oxide is a carcinogen that can cause eye pain, sore throat,
difficult breathing, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea, headache,
convulsions, blisters and can result in vomiting and coughing if
inhaled. Ethylene oxide is also linked to spontaneous abortion,
genetic damage, nerve damage, peripheral paralysis, muscle weakness,
as well as impaired thinking and memory. Ethylene oxide kept in
liquid form is generally cold and evaporates quickly at room temperature.
It is more likely to cause frostbite or other cold-related health
effects if skin exposure occurs.
Currently, there are no regulations pertaining to ethylene oxide
on construction projects. Industrial processes involving ethylene
oxide are regulated under the Ontario Occupational Health &
Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, Regulation 841 as amended by O.Reg. 107/04,
Designated Substance – Ethylene Oxide. The transport of the
waste to the disposal site is controlled by the federal Transportation
of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992.