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Cadillac Repairs -- Toxic Coolant

 toxic coolant    8:38 pm thursday january 10, 2002
Since we have talked a lot about coolant and changing coolant....and with all the heater core questions....and coolant change recommendations....please keep something in mind...

Automotive coolant is EXTREMELY poisonous and even a small amount ingested will be lethal to whatever swallows it.  

All common coolants are ethylene-glycol.  Both the standard green coolant and the pink Dex-Cool are ethylene-glycol.  About one ounce of ethylene-glycol will kill a kitten or small puppy.  The nature of the death often masks the cause.  Ethylene-glycol permanently damages the kidneys causing complete renal system
shutdown and the victim dies slowly of its own toxins.  Not a nice way to go and it often takes several days or a week to manifest itself so the original cause is seldom realized.  Touch a taste of coolant to your tongue and note it's sweet taste.  An attractive neusance of there ever was one.  Animals will lap it up from puddles in the driveway or a parking lot because it tastes good to them.

Once ingested the coolant can be counteracted by activated charcoal up to the point it is absorbed into the system.  There is no effective antidote at that point.  Dialysis is partially effective in humans but not practical for animals.

Not to be an alarmist ,here, just be careful changing your coolant and dilute any spills and don't leave puddles of it lying around.  Even a tiny spill can be a lethal dose.

If you are a pet owner or just an animal lover BE AWARE and watch your animals around parking lots or if you are doing any coolant system maintenance so they won't drink any.

I personally know of at least two puppies that have "mysteriously" died about a week after their owner changed
a radiator or a heater core....

There is a less poisonous coolant made from propylene-glycol (PG).  The PG is made by Arco and the automotive coolant is sold as the "Sierra" brand.  Also, RV coolant, used for winterizing
RV water systems is PG but this has no corrosion inhibitors.  PG works satisfactorily as an automotive coolant but it causes about a 5% loss in cooling capacity due to it's increased viscosity and slightly lower specific heat value.  There is no long life PG coolant.  

Next time you eat a Twinkie or other packaged baked goods look at the label and read the "contents."  Likely you'll see propylene-glycol listed as it is commonly added to preserve moisture !!!!   It is much less toxic than EG, obviously.

I personally don't recommend the PG based coolant due to the loss in cooling system capacity.  It is only effective if you drain and purge your system, anyway, which just adds more EG to
the waste stream.

Incidentally, ethylene-glycol is generally considered not harmful to industrial or  commercial waste treatment systems.   Check with your municipality before pouring it down the drain
but most areas recommend the sewer for disposal.  It is toxic if ingested (like a lot of other things in the sewer...) but is compatible with waste treatment systems.  It does not foul the systems like oil, brake fluid or paint thinner would.  DON'T put it in a storm sewer or any place where it could drain to a creek
or pool up to be ingested by some animal.

Aside from the obvious advantage of long life corrosion inhibitors (to the engine and owner) in the Dex-Cool one other advantage is that it minimizes the amount of waste ethylene-glycol introduced into the environment since it rarely needs tobe changed.  This minimizes the opportunity for accidental poisonings.

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