Ethylene Oxide and Formaldehyde

Ethylene oxide
Ethylene oxide poisoning can happen to workers in certain industries where exposure to this compound is a common occurrence. Ethylene oxide is a colorless gas that is reactive, explosive, and flammable. Symptom severity is dependent on the amount of compound exposed to, the length of exposure, and the route of exposure. Ethylene oxide is an irritant, a carcinogen (cancer-causing), and mutagenic (causes changes to DNA).
Workers in the following industrial productions are more prone to ethylene oxide poisoning than most:

  • Health care workers- the gas is used to disinfect and sterilize medical equipment
  • Detergent production
  • Solvents
  • Plastics production
  • Glycol production

Symptoms of ethylene oxide toxicity:

  • Bronchitis
  • Cataracts
  • Central nervous system deleterious effects
  • Eye, skin, mucous membrane irritation
  • Emphysema
  • Miscarriage in pregnant females
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Pulmonary edema

Complications of ethylene oxide exposure (especially to people who work with it and are exposed long term):

  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Leukemia
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Stomach cancer



Formaldehyde has many different names including: formalin, formic acid, aldehyde, methylene oxide, oxomethane, methanol, methyl aldehyde, and paraform. Formaldehyde has long been used as a preservative- which makes it very useful in applications involving paint, solvents, dyes, ink, pigments, glue, insecticides, and embalming fluid. In addition to paint, it used extensively throughout the construction industry as wood is impregnated with formaldehyde, and it is in insulation. New homes pose a threat to some as many of the materials in them slowly release formaldehyde and other gases into the air. Symptom severity is dependent on the amount of compound exposed to, the length of exposure, and the route of exposure. Formaldehyde is an irritant to the skin, respiratory tract, eyes, and mucous membranes. It is also a lachrymatory agent, meaning contact with the eyes will cause burning, watering in an attempt to flush the formaldehyde out.

Workers in the following industries are more prone to formaldehyde poisoning:

  • Construction workers
  • Painters
  • Morticians
  • Taxidermists
  • Persons working with/applying pesticides
  • Mills

Symptoms of formaldehyde toxicity:

  • Central nervous system depression
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Malaise
  • Metabolic acidosis
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Respiratory distress/arrest (with coughing, pain, dyspnea, inflammation, irritation)
  • Skin irritation, as formaldehyde is easily absorbed
  • Sleep problems
  • Unsteadiness
  • Vision problems if eye exposure has occurred

Complications of formaldehyde exposure:

  • Blindness is eye exposure is severe
  • Cancer development of the nasal passages
  • Coma
  • Kidney damage/failure
  • Shock
  • Death-even if a small amount is ingested. Formaldehyde is corrosive to the intestinal tract. It will cause bleeding and perforation.

If you or loved one suffered harm due to the toxic substance ethylene oxide or formaldehyde, you may be eligible for monetary damages. Call the experts at the Sweeney Law Firm and let us review the facts. If you we take you personal injury case, there is no fee for representation. We work on a contingency fee basis- this means we only get paid if a settlement or recovery of funds is made on your behalf.

Other heavy metal poisoning articles on this site: Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, Thallium, Arsenic, Boron trichloride, Boron trifluoride, Hydrogen fluoride, Fluorine, Arsine, Carbon disulfide, Diborane, Ammonia, Hydrochloric acid, Sulfuric acid