Leadership

Ethylene

Issue 8 and Volume 140.

Ethylene FEATURES HAZARDOUS MATERIALS Chemical Data Notebook Series: It’s in the cryogenic liquefied form that ethylene, an important chemical in the manufacture of plastics, presents its toughest challenge to emergency responders. The extreme cold can destroy clothing and gear, and it presents the danger of frostbite even on the warmest days. In addition, the liquid generates tremendous amounts of flammable gas at a very low temperature—its boiling point is -155° F. That means a small spill that finds an ignition source can produce a very large explosion and fire, and an accident involving a container of ethylene can produce a BLEVE (boiling-liquid, expanding-vapor explosion) if the container isn’t properly insulated and protected. The chemical’s most common use is in polymerizing polyethylene, the highest-volume plastic in the world. The range of products made from different types of polyethylenes includes high-strength containers, toys, bottles, packaging film and sheets, and trash bags. Ethylene…

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