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What is in antifreeze that makes it harmful?


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Methanol(otherwise known as wood alcohol) and ethylene glycol are the two toxic components in antifreeze. Methanol and ethylene glycol are both acted upon by alcohol dehydrogenase in the cell cytoplasm. This converts these molecules into toxic compounds like formaldehyde and formic acid. Before the advent of fomepizole (an alcohol dehydrogenase blocker), alcohol was given as a treatment for antifreeze ingestion because it competed with methanol and ethylene glycol for alcohol dehydrogenase. Methanol can cause blindness and death. Ethylene glycol crystallizes within the kidney and can cause renal failure and death. Hope that helps.