IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


22nd April, 2024 Health


Source: Hindu

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  • The recall of Everest Fish Curry Masala from India by the Singapore Food Agency due to the alleged presence of a pesticide, ethylene oxide, has raised concerns about food safety and regulatory compliance.


Ethylene Oxide Contamination

  • Ethylene oxide is a pesticide not authorized for use in food.
  • It is typically used to fumigate agricultural products to prevent microbial contamination.
  • While ethylene oxide is allowed for sterilizing spices under Singapore's Food Regulations, its presence in food beyond permissible limits is concerning.


  • Ethylene oxide (EO) is an important organic compound widely used in various industrial processes.

Chemical Structure and Properties:

  • Chemical Formula: C2H4O
  • Molecular Weight:05 g/mol
  • Physical State: Ethylene oxide is a colorless gas at room temperature and pressure.
  • Boiling Point:7°C
  • Melting Point: -111.3°C
  • Density:52 g/cm³ (at 0°C)

Production Methods:

  • Ethylene oxide is primarily produced by the catalytic oxidation of ethylene. Two main methods are commonly used:
    1. Direct Oxidation: Ethylene and oxygen are reacted over a silver catalyst at high temperatures (around 250-300°C) and pressures (around 1-2 MPa).
    2. Chlorohydrin Process: Ethylene reacts with hypochlorous acid or its salts to form ethylene chlorohydrin, which is then treated with a base to produce ethylene oxide.


Ethylene oxide finds extensive application in various industries due to its versatility:

  • Sterilization: It is widely used for sterilizing medical equipment and supplies due to its ability to penetrate packaging and kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
  • Chemical Intermediates: Ethylene oxide is a precursor to many other chemicals, including ethylene glycol, which is used in antifreeze and polyester production.
  • Surfactants: It is used in the production of surfactants for detergents, cosmetics, and personal care products.
  • Textiles: Ethylene oxide is used for treating textiles to impart wrinkle resistance and shrink resistance.
  • Pesticides: It serves as a raw material for manufacturing certain pesticides.


  • Flammability: Ethylene oxide is highly flammable and can form explosive mixtures with air.
  • Toxicity: It is highly toxic and a known carcinogen. Prolonged exposure to ethylene oxide vapor can cause respiratory irritation, headaches, nausea, and, in severe cases, central nervous system depression and damage.
  • Reactivity: Ethylene oxide is reactive with many materials, including metals, leading to corrosion and degradation.
  • Handling: Proper ventilation, personal protective equipment (PPE), and engineering controls are necessary when handling ethylene oxide to minimize exposure risks.

Environmental Impact:

  • Air Pollution: Emissions of ethylene oxide contribute to air pollution and can form smog.
  • Water Pollution: Discharges of ethylene oxide into water bodies can harm aquatic life.
  • Global Warming Potential: Ethylene oxide is a greenhouse gas with a high global warming potential.




Q.  Ethylene oxide is a valuable chemical with diverse industrial applications, but its production, handling, and disposal require careful attention to safety and environmental considerations. Discuss. (250 Words)