ethylene, ethylene oxide, epidemiology, toxicology, carcinogenicity
Ethylene and ethylene oxide are worldwide petrochemical compounds produced in large quantities and are utilized in several industrial sectors. Moreover, ethylene oxide is a metabolite of ethylene. This report considers the available data in the literature about potential risks for health, in particular carcinogenic risks due to exposure, both in general life and working environments, to the above-mentioned compounds. Concerning ethylene, the results of the experimental and epidemiological studies available do not permit any evaluation about possible long-term, exposure-correlated risks. Concerning ethylene oxide, there is manifest evidence of carcinogenicity in humans, as shown by genotoxicity and carcinogenicity studies in vivo and in vitro. Therefore, it is advisable to reduce as much as possible the exposure to such compounds and, above all for ethylene oxide, to proceed to its replacement with less toxic products.