Isopropyl Alcohol


Isopropyl alcohol (aka isopropanol) is a colourless, combustible liquid with a strong odour. Its chemical formula is CH3CHOHCH3. Isopropyl alcohol is a volatile liquid, and if left exposed to the elements, it will evaporate quickly. [1,2,3]

Uses [1,3]

Isopropyl alcohol is used across a range of applications. It is primarily used as a solvent and in the medical industry as a cleaning agent. As a solvent it is used in many home cleaning products, as its ability to evaporate quickly means there is little chance of shock or damage to electrical components. In the medical industry, isopropyl alcohol is commonly used as an ingredient in rubbing alcohol, with distilled water. It is also used in disinfecting pads. In addition, isopropyl alcohol is used as an ingredient in a range of products, including make soaps, window cleaners, antifreezes, perfumes and more.

Routes of Exposure [1]

Pure isopropyl alcohol is readily absorbed through the skin.

Home-use products with isopropyl alcohol in them usually have approximately 70% of the compound in them, so they are less toxic than industry-standard versions. However, there is still a chance of toxic exposure.

Health Effects

Isopropyl alcohol poisoning affects a range of systems, including the nervous and respiratory systems.

Acute Effects [1,5]

Severity of symptoms depend on the level and type of exposure.

Acute exposure to the chemical compound can result in headaches, vomiting, dizziness, nausea, unconsciousness, comas, and death. Exposure can also cause CNS depression, low arterial pressure, abdominal pain, slowing respiration and coughing.

Chronic Effects [1,5]

Chronic exposure to isopropyl alcohol is toxic to multiple body systems. Long term exposure to the chemical compound can cause cracking, red, itchy and dry skin; impaired memory and inflammation of the skin. There is not a glut of information regarding long term exposure to isopropyl alcohol specifically, but generally, chronic exposure to solvents is known to increase the risk of kidney and liver dysfunction.


~h2First Aid Measures [5]

  • Ingestion: DO NOT INDUCED VOMITING. Rinse victim’s mouth with water. Get immediate medical attention.
  • Skin contact: Remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories. Do not re-wear clothing until it has been thoroughly decontaminated. Immediately rinse affected areas with plenty of water. If symptoms persist, contact a doctor immediately.
  • Eye contact: Flush eyes (including under the eyelids), with water for at least 15 minutes. Contact a medical professional.
  • Inhalation: Take victim to the nearest fresh air source and monitor their breathing. Keep the victim warm. If the victim is not breathing, and you are qualified, you may perform CPR with a one-way valve or protective mask. Immediately contact a medical professional. 
  • General: Never administer anything by mouth to an unconscious, exposed person.

  • Exposure Controls/Personal Protection [4]

  • Engineering controls: Emergency eyewash fountains and quick-drench areas should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure. Ensure there is adequate ventilation. Use a local exhaust ventilation or process enclosure, to limit the amount of acid in the air.

  • Personal protection: Safety glasses, protective and dustproof clothing, gloves, an apron and an appropriate mask or dusk respirator. Wear impervious shoes. Do not wear contact lenses. For specifications regarding other PPE, Follow the guidelines set in your jurisdiction.

Regulation [6]

~h2United States:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set an 8-hour time weighted average (TWA) concentration limit for isopropyl alcohol of 400ppm.

Australia [5]

An 8-hour TWA for isopropyl alcohol of 400ppm has been set.