A marathon runner trains in a favorite track suit and takes a long drink of cool water from a lightweight unbreakable bottle. You relax in your comfortable overstuffed lounge chair to watch the big game. A mother applies a clean bandage to her child’s scraped knee. Surgeons use sterile instruments to complete a life-saving heart transplant. You jump into your car, turn the ignition key and it starts immediately, despite the winter cold.
All these things are made possible by using products created from ethylene oxide. A versatile and valuable building block of chemistry, ethylene oxide and its derivatives help make many of the products we use everyday. A small but important use of ethylene oxide is in the sterilization of medical supplies and devices and healthcare products such as bandages.
Virtually all of the ethylene oxide produced is used as an intermediate in the production of other useful chemicals. A very important derivative is ethylene glycol which is used for the manufacture of polyester fiber for clothes, upholstery, carpet, and pillows and the blending of automotive engine antifreeze. Ethylene glycol is also used to manufacture fiberglass used in products such as jet skis, bathtubs, and bowling balls. A major application is in the production of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin, a recyclable plastic, for packaging film and bottles.
Other derivatives made from ethylene oxide are used as ingredients for household and industrial cleaners, personal care items such as cosmetics and shampoos, heat transfer liquids, polyurethanes, plasticizers, ointments, and pharmaceutical preparations.
EO Product Stewardship Manual – 3rd edition
Ethylene Oxide – An Essential Raw Material for Many Important Products (chart)
Glossary of Terms