Ethylene Oxide

CAS RN:75-21-8

Reactivities / Incompatibilities

Forms explosive mixture with air. Dangerously reactive; may rearrange chemically and/or polymerize violently with evolution of heat, when in contact with highly active catalytic surfaces such as anhydrous chlorides or iron, tin and aluminum, pure oxides of iron and aluminum, and alkali metal hydroxides. Even small amounts of strong acids, alkalis, oxidizers can cause a reaction. Avoid contact with copper. Protect container from physical damage, sun and heat. Attacks some plastics, rubber or coatings.
Metal fittings containing copper, silver, mercury, or magnesium should not be used in ethylene oxide service, since traces of acetylene could produce explosive acetylides capable of detonating ethylene oxide vapor.
Incompatibilities: because of high chemical reactivity ... It reacts with many pharmaceutical substances & with vitamins, amino acids, & other food constituents. ...
Accidental contamination of a large ethylene oxide feed-cylinder by reaction liquor containing trimethylamine caused the cylinder to explode 18 hr later. Contamination was possible because of a faulty pressure gauge and suck-back of froth above the liquid level.
Highly reactive. Hazardous polymerization may occur especially if contaminated. Reacts with acids, alkalies, salts, combustible materials. May undergo runaway reaction with water. Many materials may accelerate this reaction.
It reacts with chloride and water to produce two active germicides, 2-chloroethanol and ethylene glycol.
Strong acids, alkalis & oxidizers; chlorides of iron, aluminum & tin; oxides of iron & aluminum; water.
Alkali metal hydroxides; acids; anhydrous chlorides of iron, tin, and aluminum; pure oxides of iron and aluminum; and metallic potassium are some of the catalysts that may cause liquid ethylene oxide to rearrange and/or polymerize, liberating heat.
Explosions occur, although infrequently, from the combination of ethylene oxide and alcohols or mercaptans.
Ethylene oxide may polymerize violently when in contact with highly catalytic surfaces such as anhydrous chlorides of iron, tin, and aluminum, or pure oxides of aluminum and iron.
During manufacture of ethanolamine, an excess of ammonia during a period of high pressure resulted in an ammonia-ethylene oxide explosion.
Copper and other acetylide-forming metals should not be used in process equipment handling ethylene oxide because of the danger of the possible presence of acetylene.
Ethylene oxide reacts with water in porous insulation, forming low molecular weight polyethylene glycols. Under certain conditions these glycols can spontaneously ignite.
Drying gaseous ethylene oxide with magnesium perchlorate resulted in an explosion.
Ethylene oxide is dangerously reactive with metallic potassium.
When boron trifluoride is used as a catalyst for ethylene oxide, very toxic organofluorine compounds may be produced.
Find more information on this substance at: Hazardous Substances Data Bank , TOXNET , PubMed