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Automotive Products - Antifreeze


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Antifreeze is used to protect an automobiles engine from freezing in the winter and overheating in the summer. As an engine operates and wears, it will release fine particles of dirt and metal into the antifreeze. Once contaminated with dirt and metal particles, the antifreeze must be replaced (usually every couple of years). It is this contaminated antifreeze that presents the majority of problems to the environment and humans.


The main hazardous ingredient in most antifreeze is ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol is poisonous when ingested; it can cause organ damage and even death. Once ingested, ethylene glycol can cause depression followed by kidney, liver, heart and brain damage. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine estimates that in 1999 there were 5,427 exposures resulting in 101 major injuries (organ and brain damage) and 9 deaths. In addition, Antifreeze can pick up toxic heavy metals from the engine, such as zinc, copper, and lead.

Antifreeze that reaches the environment (that contains ethylene glycol) smells and tastes sweet to pets and other animals. According to the Colombia Animal Hospital, each year 10,000 cats and dogs are victims of accidental antifreeze poisoning.


Propylene glycol, which retains the same functional qualities of ethylene glycol, is recognized as a less toxic alternative by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Handling & Storage:


  • Donate any unused antifreeze to a friend or a local auto shop
  • Collect used antifreeze in the original container if possible, if not it can be collected in a plastic or metal jug that is labeled and sealed (preferably a child proof lid)
  • Keep antifreeze out of reach of children and pets
  • Make sure not to mix antifreeze with any other substances
  • Use propylene glycol antifreeze which is a less toxic alternative




  • Do not dispose of in storm or home sewer drains
  • Do not dispose of antifreeze in the trash
  • Bring used antifreeze to a local household hazardous waste collection facility, participating service station or special collection event

Where to take HHW:


Towns and solid waste districts hold hazardous waste collection events every year, two per year at minimum (spring and fall) and many common household hazardous wastes can be disposed of at these events. For more information and event scheduling, contact your solid waste district. Find contact information on the solid waste district contact list page. (Note: If you live in a village, fire district, etc., please select the town your village, fire district, etc. is in from the list. If your town is not a member of a district, contact information for your town clerk is provided.)

Solid Waste Management Districts contact list






Last updated:
VT DEC Waste Management & Prevention Division 1 National Life Drive - Davis 1  Montpelier, VT  05620-3704  Tele: 802-828-1138  Fax: 802-828-1011

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