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  #1  
Old 04-09-2011, 11:07 AM
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Can coolant fumes harm you?

I ask this question as I've had a coolant smell in my Ferrari from time to time, sometimes quite strong (I think I finally fixed it though)
I used to own an old vintage car and that used to get very hot in traffic (there was no water pump, it was just thermo-syphon) and you'd often get a coolant smell as it ejected from the overflow.

I looked on the internet and it seems pretty bad, all sorts of nasty symptoms, but it just seems to refer to actually sniffing antifreeze as being dangerous, where you inhale effectively a mist of the product, to be honest I did not know people used it this way....like glue sniffing. And of course accidentaly drinking it, which tends to be pretty fatal.
However I can't work out whether just the aroma of it is bad....not that you'd breathe it by choice of course.

Having diluted antifreeze aroma from your cooling system, can that do you harm? does anybody know?

Last edited by lightning; 04-09-2011 at 11:09 AM.
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  #2  
Old 04-09-2011, 11:15 AM
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Ethylene glycol

Ethylene glycol (antifreeze) is poisonous in small amounts when swallowed. Dogs & cats drink a few licks from a puddle because it tastes “sweet” & are dead in a few hours. I can’t imagine fumes would be good for any mammals. My Miata has a leak somewhere that I need to track down. I keep the windows open. Not sure if ok to breath either.
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Old 04-09-2011, 01:27 PM
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Ever used a can of spray paint without a resperator, or cleaned your hands off with paint thinner? How about breathing gas fumes when filling up? I'm pretty sure all these activities are about equal to smelling a little bit of coolant. My dog once drank himself full from a puddle of diluted coolant. He died a few years later.
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Old 04-09-2011, 02:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glassman View Post
Ever used a can of spray paint without a resperator, or cleaned your hands off with paint thinner? How about breathing gas fumes when filling up? I'm pretty sure all these activities are about equal to smelling a little bit of coolant. My dog once drank himself full from a puddle of diluted coolant. He died a few years later.
Our shop lost a dog from drinking anti-freeze. It happened in a few hours. The vet confirmed it.

I think fumes are pretty minor. But, drinking it will destroy your liver.

Years ago no one worried about changing brakes with asbestos. Now, it's completely forbidden. No one worried about dumping old anti-freeze in the sewer. Now, anti-freeze has to be treated like toxic waste by law.

Over time, our perception of what is acceptable risk of toxic substances has changed.
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Old 04-09-2011, 02:26 PM
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It's not good for you.

Get it fixed.
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Old 04-09-2011, 02:42 PM
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It's not good for you.

Get it fixed.
I agree. If it's a continuous smell in the cabin, it's not good. If it's just a whif you get occasionally from inspecting an old car, it's probably not anything to worrry about.
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Old 04-09-2011, 05:18 PM
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Not good for the Kidney's/Nervous System.Make sure you fixed the Problem.
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Old 04-09-2011, 05:29 PM
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Coolant

Is there a safe alternative? I read somewhere that you can get a "pet safe" antifreeze, and while it's still not good for you, it's nowhere near as bad as ethylene glycol.
However none of my local motor parts suppliers in the UK have heard of it.
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Old 04-09-2011, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by lightning View Post
Is there a safe alternative? I read somewhere that you can get a "pet safe" antifreeze, and while it's still not good for you, it's nowhere near as bad as ethylene glycol.
However none of my local motor parts suppliers in the UK have heard of it.
I think there is.

But the easiest way is just to not dump antifreeze on the ground or leave it in a bucket where they can get at it. Dump it into a bucket and then transfer it with a funnel to a sealed container. Then, take it to a recycling facility.

It's only toxic if they drink it. It's also bad for the environment if you just wash it away into the sewer.

Treat it like you would any other household cleaner and you won't have a problem.
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Old 04-09-2011, 08:59 PM
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[QUOTE=bdelp;140430612]Our shop lost a dog from drinking anti-freeze. It happened in a few hours. The vet confirmed it.
QUOTE]

I called a vet and was told my dog would be dead in a few hours. He was also sideswiped by a UPS truck he was chasing and was knocked out. He got up and was sort of normal a half hour later. Once he jumped out of the window of my truck at about 30 MPH and lived. Later he cracked his spine and was in huge pain. After a week of laying on his dog bed outside he got up and walked away. Definitely lucky. He lived so long I finally had to put the sorry bastard to sleep.
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Old 04-09-2011, 09:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lightning View Post
I read somewhere that you can get a "pet safe" antifreeze, and while it's still not good for you, it's nowhere near as bad as ethylene glycol.
However none of my local motor parts suppliers in the UK have heard of it.
"Pet safe" is still ethylene glycol and every bit as toxic as the regular stuff. It's been spiked with something really evil-tasting bitter so animals won't drink it.
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Old 04-09-2011, 09:17 PM
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[quote=Glassman;140431341]
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdelp View Post
Our shop lost a dog from drinking anti-freeze. It happened in a few hours. The vet confirmed it.
QUOTE]

I called a vet and was told my dog would be dead in a few hours. He was also sideswiped by a UPS truck he was chasing and was knocked out. He got up and was sort of normal a half hour later. Once he jumped out of the window of my truck at about 30 MPH and lived. Later he cracked his spine and was in huge pain. After a week of laying on his dog bed outside he got up and walked away. Definitely lucky. He lived so long I finally had to put the sorry bastard to sleep.
That's amazing. When we lost our shop mutt, everyone was sick for a week. It's amazing what a pet can do to your mood.

He did one thing that really got him in hot water once. He used to sleep in the shop sometimes instead of my partner taking him home. One time he got upset and literally chewed the front bumper of a customer's Countach. Luckily it was fiberglass and easily repaired but oh man... was I upset with him that day!
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Old 04-09-2011, 10:11 PM
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Hmm. My first thought was that "coolant fumes" = steam.

Yep, steam burns are painful.
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Old 04-10-2011, 04:15 PM
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The green stuff tastes really good, like a much sweeter flat Mountain Dew.

I don't think the fumes are as bad as some think, most of what is boiling off is water, but I don't know.
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Old 04-10-2011, 04:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glassman View Post
Ever used a can of spray paint without a resperator, or cleaned your hands off with paint thinner? How about breathing gas fumes when filling up? I'm pretty sure all these activities are about equal to smelling a little bit of coolant. My dog once drank himself full from a puddle of diluted coolant. He died a few years later.
I hope that wasnt the old guy in your little avatar?
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Old 04-10-2011, 06:09 PM
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I hope that wasnt the old guy in your little avatar?
Nope, that Gable in my avatar, retired CCI dog. He could do anything including fetching a beer out of the fridge.
Jake was the Irish Setter with multiple lives, and a taste for coolant!!!!!
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Old 04-10-2011, 07:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glassman View Post
Nope, that Gable in my avatar, retired CCI dog. He could do anything including fetching a beer out of the fridge.
Jake was the Irish Setter with multiple lives, and a taste for coolant!!!!!
Lol, awesome. Can you post a larger version of that pic of Gable for me please?

Sorry to hear of Jake! Naughty boy!
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  #18  
Old 04-10-2011, 10:56 PM
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Quote:
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Can coolant fumes harm you?
Yes.

In large enough amounts, ethylene glycol can cause kidney failure. In still larger amounts, it can cause death.

And, yes, coolant / water mixture vapor (i.e., steam) contains significant amounts of aerosol ethylene glycol.

Last edited by finnerty; 04-10-2011 at 10:59 PM.
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  #19  
Old 04-10-2011, 11:10 PM
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got a face-full of coolant once when the heater core in my GTI broke. That wasn't fun. Barely limped home and bypassed the heater core with a piece of 3/4 copper pipe for the rest of summer.
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  #20  
Old 04-11-2011, 11:22 AM
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Of course, you could always run a propylene glycol antifreeze which is pretty much non-toxic and biodegradable...

Peak and Amsoil both sell the stuff.
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