What Are U.S. Regulations and Guidelines for Ethylene Glycol Exposure?

Course: WB 4342
CE Original Date: March 20, 2020
CE Renewal Date: March 20, 2022
CE Expiration Date: March 20, 2024
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Learning Objectives

After completing this section, you will be able to describe current U.S. regulations and guidelines for ethylene glycol exposure.


The U.S. government has developed ethylene glycol regulations and guidelines intended to protect the public and workers from potential adverse health effects should exposure occur.

Workplace Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has not established a permissible exposure limit (PEL).

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has provided a recommended ethylene glycol exposure limit (REL) of 50 ppm (ceiling limit) (NIOSH 2005).

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has established threshold limit values (TLVs) for workplace exposure [(ACGIH 2017)].

Environmental Standards


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated ethylene glycol as a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act (EPA 2007).


EPA recommends that children not be exposed to more than 20 mg/L (20 ppm) ethylene glycol in drinking water for 1 day, or 6 mg/L (6 ppm) per day over 10 days.

EPA also recommends that adults not be exposed to more than a daily total of 7 mg/L (7 ppm) for a lifetime [FSTRAC 1990].


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved ethylene glycol as an indirect food additive, for use only as a component of packaging adhesives.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and EPA have not classified ethylene glycol as a human carcinogen.

Key Points
  • NIOSH and ACGIH have established limits for exposure to ethylene glycol in the workplace.
  • EPA has established limits for exposure to ethylene glycol in drinking water for children and adults.
  • Ethylene glycol is not classified as a human carcinogen.

To review relevant content, see “Environmental Standards” in this section.