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Ethyl alcohol

May 1994
Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations (IDLH)

CAS number: 64–17–5

NIOSH REL: 1000 ppm (1,900 mg/m3) TWA

Current OSHA PEL: 1000 ppm (1,900 mg/m3) TWA

1989 OSHA PEL: Same as current PEL

1993-1994 ACGIH TLV: 1000 ppm (1,880 mg/m3) TWA

Description of Substance: Clear, colorless liquid with a weak, ethereal, vinous odor.

LEL:. . 3.3% (10% LEL: 3,300 ppm)

Original (SCP) IDLH: 15,000 ppm

Basis for original (SCP) IDLH: The chosen IDLH (15,000 ppm) is based on human inhalation data and is conservative. At 15,000 ppm "there was continuous lachrymation and coughing" in the exposed individuals [Lester and Greenberg 1951]. Further evidence of the IDLH being conservative is the report in Patty [1963] that a 2-hour exposure to 19,260 ppm only produced light narcosis in the rat; a 255-minute exposure to 19,260 ppm produced no signs of intoxication in the guinea pig; a 75-minute exposure to 23,940 ppm produced narcosis in the mouse; and a 80-minute exposure to 13,300 ppm caused ataxia in the mouse.

Short-term exposure guidelines: None developed


Lethal concentration data:






Adjusted 0.5-hr






NPIRI 1974

Tiunov et al. 1982





10 hr

4 hr

54,200 ppm (2.71)

40,727 ppm (2.0)

5,420 ppm

4,073 ppm

Lethal dose data:







Adjusted LD

Derived value


Savchenkov 1967

Wiberg et al. 1970







12,611 ppm

25,807 ppm

1,261 ppm

2,581 ppm

Other animal data: RD50 (mouse), 27,314 ppm [Alarie 1981].

Human data: It was reported in a clinical study that concentrations greater than 20,900 ppm were intolerably irritating and 15,000 ppm caused continuous lacrimation and coughing while concentrations between 5,200 and 10,400 ppm allowed work to be carried on, but with a certain amount of discomfort [Lester and Greenberg 1951]. In this same study, it was determined that 62% of the ethyl alcohol inhaled was absorbed [Lester and Greenberg 1951].

Revised IDLH: 3,300 ppm [LEL]

Basis for revised IDLH: Based on health considerations and acute inhalation toxicity data in humans [Lester and Greenberg 1951], a value of about 10,000 ppm would have been appropriate. However, the revised IDLH for ethyl alcohol is 3,300 ppm based strictly on safety considerations (i.e., being 10% of the lower explosive limit of 3.3%).


1. Alarie Y [1981]. Dose-response analysis in animal studies: prediction of human responses. Environ Health Perspect 42:9-13.

2. Lester D, Greenberg LA [1951]. The inhalation of ethyl alcohol by man. I. Industrial hygiene and medicolegal aspects. II. Individuals treated with tetraethylthiuram disulfide. Q J Stud Alcohol 12:167-178.

3. Nielsen GD, Alarie Y [1982]. Sensory irritation, pulmonary irritation, and respiratory stimulation by airborne benzene and alkylbenzenes: prediction of safe industrial exposure levels and correlation of their thermodynamic properties. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 26(8):53.

4. NPIRI [1974]. Raw materials data handbook, physical and chemical properties, fire hazard and health hazard data. Vol. 1. Organic solvents. Bethlehem, PA: National Printing Ink Research Institute, p. 44.

5. Patty FA, ed. [1963]. Industrial hygiene and toxicology. 2nd rev. ed. Vol. II. Toxicology. New York, NY: Interscience Publishers, Inc., p. 1426.

6. Savchenkov MF [1967]. Reaction of different age-groups to intragastric introduction of various poisons. Gig Sanit 32(3):31-35 (in Russian).

7. Tiunov YA, Zhunov VG, et al. [1982]. Information from the Soviet Toxicological Center. Gig Tr Prof Zabol 26(8):53-56 (in Russian).

8. Wiberg GS, Trenhold HL, Coldwell BB [1970]. Increased ethanol toxicity in old rats: changes in LD50, in vivo and in vitro metabolism, and liver alcohol dehydrogenase activity. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 16:718-727.