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Thread: dangers of spilled antifreeze after a year?

  1. #1

    Default dangers of spilled antifreeze after a year?

    I was wondering if antifreeze that spilled in your trunk over a year ago is still dangerous because I want to use my sega genesis and n64 that were in my trunk but I don't know if touching them would be harmful since there is one year old antifreeze on them. I can't find anything online about really old antifreeze. Should I just replace my beloved systems?

  2. #2


    if your games aren't too rare you might want to replace the systems or go digital and use the virtual console if they are hard to find games

  3. #3


    I won't risk it. I'm with Littlefolf on this.

  4. #4


    I wouldn't be too concerned. If it spilled a year ago it has evaporated. I would simply take the consoles and wipe them down with a little soap and water and let them dry. If you want wear gloves as ethylene glycol is a minor skin irritant. But again by this point is has broken down. For the most part as long as you don't drink it you are fine. If the antifreeze was actually propylene glycol instead then it is even safer.

    Direct download to toxological profile

  5. #5


    I'd echo Technologic. Antifreeze (ethylene glycol to be specific) is not highly caustic (severely skin-damaging), just poisonous. And it's not that poisonous either - the ingestion measure that necessitates a medical assessment is about half an ounce for an adult, but after an entire year, you're not going to find that much left in your trunk. The particular problem with ethylene glycol isn't it's volumetric toxicity, but that it tastes sweet rather than bitter, so it's easy to consume in dangerous amounts, especially for young children.

    Assuming that you cleaned it up at the time, all that will be left is minute trace amounts. Even if you cleaned the entire surface of both consoles with your tongue, you wouldn't pick up a dangerous dose. Just wipe them off. You're not dealing with nerve gas here. Bear in mind that "poisonous" is as much a quantitative measure as qualitative. Practically everything is poisonous in sufficient amount, including oxygen and water. Poison notices are simply attached to substances that have highly damaging health effects relative to the amount consumed. And you are exposed to ethylene glycol in the environment from time to time - you probably touch and inhale trace amounts every time you visit a car workshop, and it's used extensively at airports for de-icing wings. You've probably inhaled/ingested trace amounts of most household chemicals at one time or another.


    Actually, If I remember my chemistry, glycols are unstable in air, and tend to break down into carbonic acid (which you'll find in all carbonated drinks) and various alcohols within a couple of weeks. There shouldn't even be trace amounts left.
    Last edited by Akastus; 19-Sep-2015 at 10:13.

  6. #6


    Just clean the stuff off with some cleaning stuff. Soapy water, windex, etc. Just be careful not to use too much, since it's electronics. I'd just use a moist rag / cloth / paper towel.

    But yeah, you're in no danger of touching it.

  7. #7


    Alright thanks everyone

  8. #8


    Just to add to the comments here, antifreeze isn't readily absorbed through the skin (i.e. people don't get poisoning from touching it). It is usually by ingesting it. So unless you plan on eating the gaming cartridges i think you should be ok.

    As a side not, if you do think you are poisoned the treatment is actually administration of ethanol (yes, that means alcohol). The ethylene glycol is metabolised by the same enzyme that metabolises alcohol. The enzyme sees the ethylene glycol as a substance that is similar to alcohol and so attempt to convert it (to try to get rid of it from your body). However, this process is what actually turns it into a toxic substance and causes swelling and damage to the brain. So, if you can saturate the enzyme with something else (to prevent it being metabolised) then you can prevent the toxic side effects. And, that is where alcohol comes in . By drinking alcohol you raise the ethanol levels and offload the ethylene glycol (as there is more alcohol around it is more likely to come in contact with the enzyme).

    Mind you, your body does still have to get rid of the ethylene glycol (and after it has been offloaded from the enzymes) that is usually done by haemodialysis. So, if you think you might have symptoms then just drink some (not ridiculous amounts) of alcohol and get someone to drive you to the hospital (don't drive as you wouldn't want to get a ticket for being drunk trying to drive to the hospital).

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