Acetone (also known as propanone, dimethyl ketone, 2-propanone, propan-2-one and ?-ketopropane) is a common industrial solvent and the simplest representative of the ketone group of solvents with the molecular formula CH3COCH3. A colourless, flammable liquid at room temperature, it occurs naturally and is also chemically synthesised. Acetone is miscible with water, ethanol, and ether and itself serves as an important solvent. [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][1]

It can polymerise rapidly due to heating and under the influence of air, light and on contact with a catalyst, strong oxidisers and metals such as copper and aluminium, with fire or explosion hazard. As a gas mixed with air, acetone is a fire and explosion hazard. On standing, acetone can form peroxides, which may then explode. Acetone will react with iron and steel in the presence of moisture. It is also capable of dissolving plastic glasses frames, jewellery, pens and pencils, rayon stockings and other rayon garments. [2]

Acetone is also produced and disposed of in the human body through normal metabolic processes. It is normally present in blood and urine. People with diabetes produce it in larger amounts. [3]

Uses [2]

Acetone is used as a solvent for fats, oils, waxes, resins, rubber, plastics, lacquers, varnishes and rubber cements. It is used to make many chemical compounds, rayon, photographic films, plastics, fibres, drugs and other chemicals, for storing acetylene gas, and is present in paint and varnish removers, purifying paraffin and for hardening and dehydrating tissues.

In the Environment [4]

A large percentage (97%) of the acetone released during its manufacture or use goes into the air. In air, about one-half of the total amount breaks down from sunlight or other chemicals every 22 days. It moves from the atmosphere into the water and soil by rain and snow. It also moves quickly from soil and water back to air. Acetone doesn’t bind to soil or build up in animals. Microorganisms in soil and water break it down. Acetone can move into groundwater from spills or landfills. It is broken down in water and soil, but the time required for this to happen varies.

Sources & Routes of Exposure [2,4]

Sources of Exposure

  • Industry sources: Acetone is produced as a result of manufacturing basic chemicals, plastic products, non-ferrous metals, iron and steel, fabricated metal products, motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts, photographic and scientific equipment, wood products, ceramic products, cement, lime, plaster and concrete products, meat and meat products, rubber products, paper, paper products and industrial machinery. In addition, it is emitted from printing processes, mineral, metal and chemical wholesaling, water supply, sewerage and drainage services and coal mining.
  • Diffuse sources: Solid fuels burning for heating in the home and for barbeques and incinerators are thought to be the highest sources of emissions of acetone. It is also present in solvents and aerosols used in the home. Acetone is present in tobacco smoke and landfill sites and is emitted as a result of using lawnmowers.
  • Natural sources: Acetone occurs naturally in plants, trees, volcanic gases, forest fires and as a product of the breakdown of body fat.
  • Transport sources: Acetone is present in the vehicle exhaust of cars, aeroplanes and from railway operations.
  • Consumer products: Acetone is a common ingredient in domestic products. It is found in aerosol paints, architectural coatings, automotive and machinery paints and primers, furniture polish and cleaners, household hard surface cleaners, laundry pre-soaks, pet flea and tick removers, cockroach treatments, laundry starches, lubricating greases and oils, nail enamel and polish and polish remover, particleboard, paints (including interior clear finishes, undercoats and primers), varnish, paint and varnish removers and thinners, liniments for veterinary preparations, pharmaceutical preparations, pre-moistened towelettes, shoe polish, sun tan lotions and oils, and in wood office furniture.

Routes of Exposure

Exposure to acetone occurs via:

  • Breathing low background levels in the environment.
  • Breathing higher levels of contaminated air in the workplace or from using products that contain acetone (for example, household chemicals, nail polish, and paint).
  • Drinking water or eating food-containing acetone.
  • Touching products containing acetone.
  • For children, eating soil at landfills or hazardous waste sites that contain acetone.
  • Smoking or breathing second hand smoke.

Health Effects [4]

Acute Effects

Upon exposure to acetone, it enters your bloodstream where it is carried to all the organs of the body. If it is a small amount, the liver breaks it down to chemicals that are not harmful and uses these chemicals to make energy for normal body functions. Breathing moderate- to-high levels of acetone for short periods of time, however, can cause nose, throat, lung, and eye irritation; headaches; light-headedness; confusion; increased pulse rate; effects on blood; nausea; vomiting; unconsciousness and possibly coma; and shortening of the menstrual cycle in women. Swallowing very high levels of acetone can result in unconsciousness and damage to the skin in your mouth. Skin contact can result in irritation and damage to your skin. The smell and respiratory irritation or burning eyes that occur from moderate levels are excellent warning signs that can help you avoid breathing damaging levels of acetone.

Chronic Effects

Health effects from long-term exposures are known mostly from animal studies. Kidney, liver, and nerve damage, increased birth defects, and lowered ability to reproduce (males only) occurred in animals exposed long-term. It is not known if the same effects would occur in humans.


The Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have not classified acetone for carcinogenicity. Acetone does not cause skin cancer in animals when applied to the skin. It is unknown if breathing or swallowing acetone for long periods will cause cancer. Studies of workers exposed to it found no significant risk of death from cancer.

Safety [5]

First Aid Measures

  • Eye Contact: Check for and remove any contact lenses. Immediately flush eyes with running water for at least 15 minutes, keeping eyelids open. Get medical attention.
  • Skin Contact: In case of contact, immediately flush skin with plenty of water. Cover the irritated skin with an emollient. Remove contaminated clothing and shoes. Wash clothing before reuse. Thoroughly clean shoes before reuse. Get medical attention.
  • Serious Skin Contact: Wash with a disinfectant soap and cover the contaminated skin with an anti-bacterial cream. Seek medical attention.
  • 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.

Fire & Explosion Information

  • Acetone is flammable
  • Auto-ignition temperature is 465°C (869°F)
  • Flash Points: closed cup -20°C and open cup -9°C
  • Acetone is highly flammable in presence of open flames and sparks, of heat.
  • Acetone is soluble or dispersed in water.
  • Dry chemical powder should be used to extinguish small fires
  • Alcohol foam, water spray or fog should be used to extinguish large fires
  • Vapour may travel considerable distance to source of ignition and flash back.
  • Acetone forms explosive mixtures with hydrogen peroxide, acetic acid, nitric acid, nitric acid + sulfuric acid, chromic anydride, chromyl chloride, nitrosyl chloride, hexachloromelamine, nitrosyl perchlorate, nitryl perchlorate, permonosulfuric acid, thiodiglycol + hydrogen peroxide, potassium ter-butoxide, sulfur dichloride, 1-methyl-1,3-butadiene, bromoform, carbon, air, chloroform, thitriazylperchlorate

Handling & Storage

Keep away from incompatibles such as oxidising agents, reducing agents, acids, alkalis. Store in a segregated and approved area (flammables area). Keep container in a cool, well-ventilated area. Keep container tightly closed and sealed until ready for use. Keep away from direct sunlight and heat and avoid all possible sources of ignition (spark or flame).

Exposure Controls & Personal Protection

Exposure 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 recommended personal protective equipments is as follows:

  • Splash goggles
  • 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.

Note: Suggested protective clothing might not be sufficient; consult a specialist BEFORE handling this product.

Regulation [2,4,5,6]

United States

OSHA: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a maximum concentration limit in workplace air of 1,000 ppm or 2400 mg/m3 for an 8-hour workday over a 40-hour week to protect workers.

NIOSH: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends an exposure limit of 250 ppm or 590 mg/m3 in workplace air for up to a 10-hour workday over a 40-hour workweek.


Safe Work Australia: Safe Work Australia have set the following exposure limits for acetone:

  • Eight-hour Time Weighted Average (TWA) of 500ppm or 1185 mg/m3
  • A 15-minute short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 2375 milligrams per cubic metre of air is recommended.

United Kingdom

  • TWA: 750 STEL: 1500 (ppm)
  • TWA: 1810 STEL: 3620 (mg/m3)



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