Ethylene glycol in freshwater and marine water

​​Toxicant default guideline values for protecting aquatic ecosystems

October 2000

Extracted from Section 8.3.7 ‘Detailed descriptions of chemicals’ of the ANZECC & ARMCANZ (2000) guidelines.

The default guideline values (previously known as ‘trigge​r values’) and associated information in this technical brief should be used in accordance with the detailed guidance provided in the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality.

Description of chemical

Ethylene glycol (CAS 107-21-1) is a major constituent of aircraft deicing fluids and antifreeze, used in conjunction with diethylene glycol and propylene glycol (CCME 1991 Appendix XVI), and is also used for organic synthesis.

The aquatic toxicology of ethylene glycol (and the other two glycols) is very low, in the g/L range but they can contribute to depression of dissolved oxygen in waterbodies. It is miscible in water and has a low log Kow.

Aquatic toxicology

Freshwater fish: 96-hour LC50, three species, 8000 to 82,000 mg/L. Chronic no observed effect concentration (NOEC), 7 d for early-life stage Pimephales promelas was 6090 to 32,000 mg/L (6 to 32 g/L) for mortality and 15,380 mg/L for growth.

Freshwater amphibian: one species, Xenopus laevis, 48-hour LC50, 326 mg/L.

Freshwater crustacean: 48 to 96-hour LC50, three species, 6900 to 91,400 mg/L.

Marine crustacean: one species, Crangon crangon, 96-hour LC50 50,000 mg/L.


There were insufficient data to derive a reliable guideline trigger value for ethylene glycol. A freshwater low reliability trigger value of 330 µg/L was derived, based on the amphibian data and an assessment factor (AF) of 1000. A marine low reliability trigger value of 50,000 µg/L (50 mg/L) was derived using an AF of 1000. These figures should only be used as indicative interim working levels.


ANZECC & ARMCANZ 2000. Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality, Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand, Canberra.

CCME 1991. Canadian water quality guidelines, updates. Canadian Council of Ministers for the Environment, Ottawa.