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    Ethylene Oxide Detection and Protection

    Published: Jan 1982

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    Ethylene oxide is used as an intermediate for the synthesis of a wide variety of industrial compounds. Furthermore, its strong alkylating properties make it useful as a fumigant and sterilant, and therefore, it is used in hospitals. Recent concern for ethylene oxide's toxicity may result in lowering the threshold limit value (TLV) from 50 to 10 ppm. Clearly, detection and protection methods for ethylene oxide are of immediate concern.

    The detection of ethylene oxide can be accomplished easily and quickly by using a recently developed detector tube system. This detector tube system employs two reactors, a detector tube, and a hand-operated pump. As ethylene oxide is drawn through the three-part detector tube, it is first converted to formaldehyde; the formaldehyde then reacts with xylene and sulfuric acid to form a quinoidal compound. The stain is proportional to the concentration of ethylene oxide present.

    A system to measure the average ethylene oxide concentration by time weighted average (TWA) over a 4 to 8-h period also has been proposed. This system uses activated charcoal tubes with fairly large sampling beds and smaller back-up beds. Because of the volatility of ethylene oxide from charcoal beds, special precautions must be taken for storage and analysis of this system, such as storage over dry ice and cooling the carbon disulfide eluent with dry ice.

    A gas mask canister has been developed to protect workers for over 8 h against 1000 ppm ethylene oxide concentrations. The service time has been determined by the break-through of 1 ppm ethylene oxide. The use of the detector tube and canister should provide workers with protection from exposure to ethylene oxide.


    ethylene oxide, detection, detector tube, charcoal sampling tube, gas mask canister, toxic materials

    Author Information:

    Pritts, IM
    Mine Safety Appliances Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.

    McConnaughey, PW
    Mine Safety Appliances Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.

    Roberts, CC
    Mine Safety Appliances Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.

    McKee, ES
    Mine Safety Appliances Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.

    Committee/Subcommittee: D22.04

    DOI: 10.1520/STP33983S

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