The use of ethylene-oxide (75218) (ETO) in health care facilities is reviewed. The acute toxicity symptoms of ETO, including headaches, nausea, vomiting, respiratory irritation and dermatologic conditions are described. Chronic effects including numbing of the sense of smell, nausea, vomiting, and toxic dermatitis are discussed. An epidemiological study of workers in an ETO manufacturing facility is reviewed. Tabulated data is provided on the biological effects of ETO, its acute toxicity, tissue irritation, concentrations needed to produce ocular pathology, subchronic and chronic toxicity, and genetic and allied effects. The use of the ETO gas sterilizers in hospitals and potential exposure situations due to improper venting, aeration of equipment, poor room ventilation, and malfunctioning equipment are discussed. Methods for sampling and analysis of ETO concentrations in the work area are described. The authors conclude that ETO should be considered mutagenic and potentially carcinogenic to humans, and occupational exposures be minimized. They recommend improved techniques for exhausting the gas from the sterilizer, aerator, and sterilized items, and supervision of the sterilization process.
Journal of Environmental Pathology and Toxicology. Toxicological and Carcinogenic Health Hazards in the Workplace: proceedings of the First Annual NIOSH Scientific Symposium, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 1978