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

CAS number: 55–63–0

NIOSH REL: 0.1 mg/m3 STEL [skin]

Current OSHA PEL: 2 mg/m3 (0.2 ppm) CEILING [skin]

1989 OSHA PEL: 0.1 mg/m3 STEL [skin]

1993-1994 ACGIH TLV: 0.46 mg/m3 (0.05 ppm) TWA [skin]

Description of substance: Colorless to pale-yellow, viscous liquid or solid (below 56°F).

LEL: . . Unknown

Original (SCP) IDLH*: 500 mg/m3 [*Note: “Effective” IDLH = 200 mg/m3 — see discussion below.]

Basis for original (SCP) IDLH: No data on acute inhalation toxicity are available on which to base the IDLH for ethylene glycol dinitrate (EGDN) and/or nitroglycerin. The chosen IDLH, therefore, is based on chronic toxicity data concerning the physiological response of animals to EGDN. According to Patty [1963], rats and guinea pigs survived 6 months of exposure to 500 mg/m3 (80 ppm) EGDN with the only effect being slight drowsiness and some Heinz body formation [Stein 1956]. Although Patty [1963] stated that EGDN is more toxic for cats and rabbits, the chosen IDLH is still probably conservative because cats given 2-hour daily exposures to 21 ppm EGDN for 1,000 days exhibited only marked blood changes [von Oettingen 1946]. However, because of the assigned protection factor afforded by each device, 2,000 ´ the OSHA PEL of 0.1 mg/m3 (i.e., 200 mg/m3) is the concentration above which only the “most protective” respirators are permitted.

Short-term exposure guidelines: None developed


Lethal dose data:

Species Reference Route LD50




Adjusted LD Derived value
Rabbit Horioka et al. 1982 oral 1,607 ----- 11,249 mg/m3 1,125 mg/m3
Rat Pharmacol Ther 1985 oral 105 ----- 735 mg/m3 74 mg/m3
Mouse Pharmacol Ther 1985 oral 115 ----- 805 mg/m3 81 mg/m3

Human data: Headaches have developed in workers exposed to 0.4 to 0.67 mg/m3 for 25 minutes; all had decreases in blood pressure [Trainor and Jones 1966]. Ethylene glycol dinitrate and nitroglycerine are vasodilators and initial exposures result in headache, dizziness, nausea, or decreases in blood pressure; however, workers become tolerant of the vasodilatory activity after 2 to 4 days of exposure [NIOSH 1978]. It has been estimated that the lethal oral dose in humans is 200 mg although others have survived doses of 1,200 mg with no apparent ill effects [Rabinowitch 1944]. [Note: An oral dose of 200 mg is equivalent to a worker being exposed to about 150 mg/m3 for 30 minutes, assuming a breathing rate of 50 liters per minute and 100% absorption.]

Revised IDLH: 75 mg/m3

Basis for revised IDLH: The revised IDLH for nitroglycerine is 75 mg/m3 based on acute oral toxicity data in humans [NIOSH 1978] and animals [Pharmacol 1985].


1. Horioka M, Saito T, Takagi K, Takasugi M, eds. [1982]. Drugs in Japan (Ethical Drugs). p. 786.

2. NIOSH [1978]. Criteria for a recommended standard: occupational exposure to nitroglycerine and ethylene glycol dinitrate. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, Center for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHEW (NIOSH) Publication No. 78-167.

3. Patty FA, ed. [1963]. Industrial hygiene and toxicology. 2nd rev. ed. Vol. II. Toxicology. New York, NY: Interscience Publishers, Inc., p. 2094.

4. Pharmacol Ther [1985]; 13(7):3649-3673 (in Japanese).

5. Rabinowitch IM [1944]. Acute nitroglycerine poisoning. Can Med Assoc J 50:199-202.

6. Stein W [1956]. Mechanism of action of chronic inhalation of nitroglycol (translated). Arch Gewerbepath Gewerbehyg 15:23-26 (translated).

7. Trainor DC, Jones RC [1966]. Headaches in explosive magazine workers. Arch Environ Health 12:231-234.

8. von Oettingen WF [1946]. The effects of aliphatic nitrous and nitric acid esters on the physiological functions with special reference to their chemical constitution. NIH Bulletin 186:29.

Page last reviewed: December 4, 2014