MadSci Network: Science History

Re: What are the historical aspects of the use of antifreeze?

Date: Mon Sep 11 10:40:51 2000
Posted By: Tony Gaglierd, Faculty, Natural Science and Engineering Technology, Point Park College
Area of science: Science History
ID: 966999380.Sh

Antifreeze - Ethylene Glycol (CAS 107-21-1)

Ethylene Glycol became of commercial interest during World War I, when was 
used a substitute fro glycerol in the manufacture of explosives.. During 
the early days of the automobile,cars would heat up and boil over in the 
summer and drivers had to carry water with them. In the winter the water 
had to be drained from the radiator and the engin to prevent it from 
freezing and cracking the block. The car was put up on blocks in the 
garage until spring. The use of Ethylene Glycol as an anti freeze and heat 
transfer medium solved both problems.

Health Effects: If Ethylene Glycol is ingested it can cause death or 
serious central nervous system and kidney damage. It is transformed in the 
body to Oxalic Acid which forms crystals in the kidneys. Children and 
animals will drink antifreeze because it tastes sweet.

Environmental Impacts: in 1997 1, 275 facilities released 11,692,223 
pounds of Ethylene Glycol into the environment. Fortunately this compound 
is not likely to exist in large amounts in air it breaks down within 24, 
to 50 hours, in soil and water it breaks down in several days to a

Pollution Prevention: See the following web site for information on 
pollution prevention for Vehicle Maintenance - Antifreeze. 

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