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Current Affairs

Antifreeze

Date: 01 February 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Eleven US soldiers fell sick after accidentally drinking ethylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze.

 

Background

The soldiers who consumed it thought that they were drinking an alcoholic beverage. They were completing a 10-day field training exercise when the incident occurred.

 

Details

  • Ethylene glycol is an industrial compound found in consumer products including automotive antifreeze, hydraulic brake fluids, some stamp pad inks, ballpoint pens, solvents, paints, plastics, films, and cosmetics, and is also used as a pharmaceutical vehicle.

  • It is a synthetic liquid, which is odourless and is used to make antifreeze and de-icing solutions for cars, airplanes, and boats.

  • Once ingested, ethylene glycol is chemically broken down into toxic compounds. These by-products then affect the central nervous system (CNS), the heart, and then the kidneys. The ingestion of sufficient amounts can be fatal.

  • Laboratory investigations suggested severe metabolic acidosis (a condition in which too much acid accumulates in the body), renal dysfunction, and hyperkalemia (when the levels of potassium in the body are higher than normal).

  • Ethylene glycol can be disseminated through indoor air, water, food, outdoor air and agricultural products.

  • Depending on the quantity of ethylene glycol consumed, death can occur within the first 24 hours and permanent damage to the nervous system may also occur, which can cause blindness and decreased mental functioning.