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Statistics in brief - Glycols

Traditionally, 1,2-ethanediol (ethylene glycol) is used in the cooling water system of cars to prevent it from freezing. It is also used to de-ice aircrafts. In 2010, about 10,500 tonnes of ethanediol were sold as antifreeze preparations to households. As the substance has a sweet smell and taste it can be tempting to drink it and it is harmful to health.

Every year the Swedish Poisons Information Centre receive many questions concerning near-accidents involving antifreeze preparations.

Ethanediol can be substituted as freezing-point depressant by 1,2-propanediol (propylene glycol), which is not harmful. By choosing propanediol, the risks of poisoning can be reduced. In 2010, about 430 tonnes of propanediol were used in antifreeze preparations sold to consumers.

The turnover of 1,2-Propanediol and 1,2-Ethanediol

Graph, The turnover of 1,2-propanediol and 1,2-ethanediol, 1994-2010.

Source: Products Register, Swedish Chemicals Agency.

1,2-ethanediol turnover has been rather constant between 20,000 and 25,000 tonnes annually, a few tonnes more in recent years. The turnover of 1,2-propanediol has, on the other hand, increased fivefold since 1994 and is bigger than 1,2-ethanediol in quantity. Thus, the total use of these two alcohols together has increased considerably since the beginning of the 1990s. 

Glycoles in antifreeze preparations

Graph, Glycoles in antifreeze preparations 1994 to 2010.

Source: Products Register, Swedish Chemicals Agency.

From the middle of the 1990s, use of 1,2-ethanediol in antifreeze preparations decreased, whereas the use of 1,2-propanediol has increased. The total use of these glycols in antifreeze products, de-icers and other freeze prevention products seems to amount to around 25,000 tonnes within an interval of a few thousand depending on the winter weather. 80 per cent of the 1,2-ethanediol is used in those kinds of products, whereas 51 per cent of the 1,2-propanediol is used for de-icing.

1,2-Propanediol as antifreeze and in other uses

Graph, 1,2-Propanediol as antifreeze and in other uses.

Source: Products Register, Swedish Chemicals Agency.

In recent years the share in this field of application has grown to more than 50 per cent of the increasing total use of propanediol. The substance is also used in food, as a solvent and to manufacture other substances.

The proportion of 1,2-ethanediol that was used in antifreeze and de-icing products was about 80 per cent of all 1,2-ethanediol used in Sweden in 2010.

Flow analyses are available for 1,2-ethanediol and 1,2-propanediol.