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Diethylene Glycol

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Diethylene Glycol is a high volume solvent most commonly used as a coolant, though it serves numerous other industrial purposes. It has been responsible for a handful of mass poisonings when it is substituted for glycerin in medicine. Diethylene glycol is structurally and mechanically similar to the more expensive glycerin, so it has been substituted in the past in medicine and has resulted in thousands of deaths, mostly in children (#Bodanich and Hooker, 2007).

Chemical Description

Diethylene glycol is a colorless liquid of low viscosity. It is soluble in water and in solvents (#INCHEM).


Diethylene glycol is mainly used as a solvent as an inert reaction medium in chemical synthesis, and as a separating agent in distillations (#INCHEM). It is used as a de-icing agent in antifreeze, in solvents for letterpresses in the printing industry, and in wood stains (#Scorecard).

Mass Poisonings

Diethylene glycol has been substituted for glycerin in medicine in a number of cases that have resulted in the deaths of several thousand people in developing countries (#Bodanich and Hooker, 2007). See the New York Times article by Walt Bodanich and Jake Hooker.

Diethylene Glycol


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