Acetone is a flammable solvent that is commonly found in nail polish remover.
What is acetone?
Acetone is a colorless and highly flammable manufactured liquid. It has a distinctive fruity or mint-like odor and a pungent taste. It is also found naturally in plants, trees, volcanic gases, and forest fires, and as a by-product of the breakdown of body fat. It is found in vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke, and landfill sites. The chemical formula for acetone is C3H6O.
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.
Household and consumer products that contain acetone include fingernail polish remover, particle board, paint remover, liquid or paste waxes and polishes, detergent, cleaning products, and rubber cement.
You can be exposed to acetone by breathing it, ingesting it, or absorbing it through your skin. Exposure can occur if you smoke cigarettes, or breathe second-hand cigarette smoke. You can also be exposed if you are exposed to isopropyl alcohol, which has medical and solvent uses, because isopropyl alcohol changes to acetone in the body.
At home, you can be exposed to acetone by using nail polish remover, household cleaners, paints, adhesives, rubber cement, particle board, or other products that contain acetone. You can be exposed by drinking water or eating food containing acetone. Exposure can occur if you live near a landfill site that contains acetone, near busy roads, or near other facilities such as incinerators that release acetone emissions.
At work, you can be exposed to acetone if you work at a facility that manufactures paints, plastics, chemicals, artificial fibers, and shoes. You can also be exposed if you work with paints, solvents, glues, and commercial cleaning products.
Exposure to high levels of acetone can cause death, coma, unconsciousness, seizures, and respiratory distress. It can damage your kidneys and the skin in your mouth.
Breathing moderate-to-high levels of acetone 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 shortening of the menstrual cycle in women.
Breathing highly concentrated acetone vapors can irritate the respiratory tract and burn your eyes. Skin contact with acetone can irritate or damage your skin.
Exposure to acetone can also cause low blood pressure, bronchial irritation, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, and an increased need to urinate.
If you think your health has been affected by exposure to acetone, contact your health care professional.
For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
This description is based on the information found in the Web links listed with this topic.
Acetone Poisoning (National Library of Medicine)
Acetone. Haz-Map (National Library of Medicine)
Acetone. Hazardous Substances Data Bank (National Library of Medicine)
Acetone. Household Products Database (National Library of Medicine)
Acetone. ToxFAQs (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)
Map of Superfund Hazardous Waste Sites with Acetone in the United States. TOXMAP (National Library of Medicine)
Last Updated: August 23, 2017