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Published on Nov 25, 2015
Acetone is a manufactured chemical that can also be found naturally in the environment. It is a colorless liquid that evaporates easily, dissolves in water and is flammable.
Acetone is used as a solvent to dissolve other substances, such as paints, varnishes, lacquers, fats, oils, waxes, resins, printing inks, plastics and glues. It is used to make plastics, fibers, drugs, rayon, photographic film, smokeless powder and other chemicals. It is also used for cleaning and drying precision parts.
People can be exposed to acetone by breathing it, ingesting it or absorbing it through their skin.
It is present in vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke and many landfill sites. In fact, it has been found in over a third of the National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). People living near a landfill site that contains acetone, near busy roads or by other facilities such as incinerators that release acetone emissions could be at risk of exposure. Exposure can also occur in smokers or those exposed to second-hand smoke.
In the home, people can be exposed to acetone by using nail polish remover, household cleaners, paints, adhesives, rubber cement, particle board or other products that contain acetone. Drinking water or eating food containing acetone is another exposure route.
In the work environment, workers can be exposed to acetone if they are employed at a facility that manufactures paints, plastics, chemicals, artificial fibers and even shoes. Employees can also be exposed if they work with solvents, paints, glues and commercial cleaning products.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, exposure to high levels of acetone can cause death, coma, unconsciousness, seizures and respiratory distress. It can also damage a person’s kidneys, skin and eyes. Breathing moderate-to-high levels for short periods of time can cause nose, throat, lung and eye irritation. It can also cause intoxication, headaches, fatigue, stupor, light-headedness, dizziness, confusion, increased pulse rate, nausea, vomiting and other conditions.
These are just a few things to know about acetone and potential exposure concerns at home or in the work environment. To learn more about this or other environmental, indoor air quality, occupational, health or safety issues, please visit the websites shown below.