Ethyl Acetate


Ethyl acetate (commonly abbreviated EtOAc or EA) is the organic compound with the formula CH3COOCH2CH3. [1] It is a clear, colourless, flammable liquid with a pleasant, fruity odour. [2] Ethyl acetate is an explosion hazard. It is slightly soluble in water, but soluble in most organic solvents. [3]


Ethyl acetate is used as a solvent for varnishes, lacquers, dry cleaning, stains, fats and nitrocellulose. It is released during the production of artificial silk and leather, and during the preparation of photographic films and plates. It is released during the manufacture of linoleum, and ‘plastic’ wood, dyes, pharmaceuticals, drug intermediates, acetic acid, artificial fruit flavourings and essences, and perfumes and fragrances. Ethyl acetate is used as a solvent in nail polish, nail polish remover, base coats and other manicuring products. Ethyl acetate is present in wines. [3] Ethyl acetate is an effective poison for use in insect collecting; as its vapours are a respiratory tract irritant, which can kill the insect quickly without destroying it, leaving it intact for study. [4]

Sources of Emission & Routes of Exposure

Sources of Emission[3]

  • Industry sources: The primary sources of ethyl acetate are the industries that manufacture it or use it in production. Some of the industries that manufacture it or use it in production are the chemical industry, pharmaceutical industry, manufacturers of paints, varnishes and lacquers. These emissions mainly are to the air.
  • Diffuse sources: Other possible emitters of ethyl acetate are vapours and spilling of commercial and household, varnish and lacquer and their removal, preparation of films and film plates, manufacture of artificial leather and silk, and consumer products containing ethyl acetate. These emissions are to the air unless there is a spill.
  • Natural sources: Natural sources of ethyl acetate are wines and naturally fermented products.
  • Consumer products: Some of the consumer products containing ethyl acetate are automotive and machinery paints, inks, lubricating oils, moisturising creams, nail polish, enamels and removers, paint thinners, premoistened towelettes, resin and rubber adhesives, and artificial flavourings. It is also found in wines.

Routes of Exposure [1]

Ethyl acetate will enter the body if we breathe in contaminated air, or eat or drink contaminated materials. It can also pass through the skin. The major routes of exposure are:

  • inhalation,
  • ingestion, and
  • eye or skin contact

Health Effects [1,3,4]

Acute Effects

Ethyl acetate causes irritation, redness, and tearing of the eyes and irritation of the nose and throat. It is a defatting agent and may cause skin dryness after acute exposure. Sensitisation of the lining of the nose may occur with symptoms of inflammation (swelling, runny nose, redness of lining). Exposure to ethyl acetate may also cause headache, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and unconsciousness. Very high concentrations may cause a stupor, but it is relatively non-toxic.

Chronic Effects

Chronic exposure of the skin to ethyl acetate may cause dermatitis. In addition prolonged exposures may cause clouding of the eye, damage to the lungs and heart and kidney and liver problems. The carcinogenic properties of ethyl acetate are not known.

Safety [5]

First Aid Measures

  • Eye Contact: Check for and remove any contact lenses. In case of contact, immediately flush eyes with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Cold water may be used. Get medical attention.
  • Skin Contact: Wash with soap and water. Cover the irritated skin with an emollient. Get medical attention if irritation develops. Cold water may be used.
  • Inhalation: If inhaled, remove to fresh air. If not breathing, give artificial respiration. If breathing is difficult, give oxygen. Get medical attention if symptoms appear.
  • Serious Inhalation: Evacuate the victim to a safe area as soon as possible. Loosen tight clothing such as a collar, tie, belt or waistband. If breathing is difficult, administer oxygen. If the victim is not breathing, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Seek medical attention.
  • Ingestion: Do NOT induce vomiting unless directed to do so by medical personnel. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person. Loosen tight clothing such as a collar, tie, belt or waistband. Get medical attention if symptoms appear.

Exposure Controls & Personal Protection

Engineering Controls

Provide exhaust ventilation or other engineering controls to keep the airborne concentrations of vapours below their respective threshold limit value. Ensure that eyewash stations and safety showers are proximal to the workstation location.

Personal Protective Equipment

The following personal protective equipment is recommended when handling ethyl acetate:

  • Safety glasses;
  • Lab coat;
  • Vapour respirator (be sure to use an approved/certified respirator or equivalent);
  • Gloves

Personal Protection in Case of a Large Spill:

  • Splash goggles
  • Full suit
  • Vapour respirator
  • Boots
  • Gloves
  • A self-contained breathing apparatus should be used to avoid inhalation of the product.
  • Suggested protective clothing might not be sufficient; consult a specialist BEFORE handling.

Regulations [1,6]

Exposure Limits

United States

  • OSHA: The current Occupational Safety and Health Administration permissible exposure limit (PEL) for ethyl acetate is 400 ppm (1400 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) concentration [29 CFR 1910.1000, Table Z-1].
  • NIOSH: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has established a recommended exposure limit (REL) for ethyl acetate of 400 ppm (1400 mg/m3) as a TWA for up to a 10-hour workday and a 40-hour workweek [NIOSH 1992].
  • ACGIH: The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists has assigned ethyl acetate a threshold limit value (TLV) of 400 ppm (1440 mg/m3) as a TWA for a normal 8-hour workday and a 40-hour workweek [ACGIH 1994, p. 21].


Safe Work Australia has established an 8 hour TWA for ethyl acetate of 200ppm (720mg/m3) and a 15 minute short term exposure limit (STEL) of 400ppm (1440 mg/m3).