Acetone Properties & Uses | Chemical Safety Facts

Acetone (Propanone)

Updated February 22, 2022

 

Acetone, a colorless liquid also known as propanone, is a solvent used in manufacture of plastics and other industrial products. Acetone may also be used to a limited extent in household products, including cosmetics and personal care products.  It also occurs naturally in the human body as a byproduct of metabolism.

Uses & Benefits

Acetone is widely used because it is miscible with water, meaning it can easily mix with water, and evaporates quickly in the air.

Acetone is a primary ingredient in many nail polish removers. It breaks down nail polish, making it easy to remove with a cotton swab or cloth.

Acetone is used in the textile industry for degreasing wool and degumming silk.

Acetone is frequently incorporated in solvent systems or “blends,” used to make lacquers for automotive and furniture finishes. It may also be used to reduce the viscosity, or thickness, of lacquer solutions.

Safety Information

Acetone safety

Acetone has been extensively studied and is generally recognized to have low acute and chronic toxicity.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined acetone is safe for use as an indirect food additive in adhesives1 and food-contact coatings2 and is regarded as a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) substance at certain concentrations.

Acetone has undergone a comprehensive review under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Voluntary Children’s Chemical Evaluation Program (VCCEP).3 The objective of VCCEP was to ensure that adequate toxicity and exposure information was available to assess potential risks to children. This VCCEP review of acetone included a hazard assessment, an exposure assessment and a risk characterization.

Acetone has undergone regulatory and scientific evaluations under the European Chemical Agency REACH program,4 the World Health Organization (WHO) International Programme on Chemical Safety,5 and EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment program.6

In a draft screening assessment for health and environmental effects, Environment Canada7 identified no critical health effects from exposures expected to occur from occasional, intermittent use of certain products containing acetone.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets safe workplace exposure limits. Workplaces where acetone is used, such as nail salons,8 can keep exposure levels below safety levels by using proper ventilation and following manufacturer’s instructions.9

Hazards of acetone

Acetone is highly flammable but is generally recognized to have low acute and chronic toxicity. If inhaled, acetone could cause a sore throat or cough. 

Answering Questions

What is acetone used for?

Acetone is commonly used as a solvent to manufacture plastics and other industrial products. Acetone may also be used to a limited extent in household products, including cosmetics and personal care products, where its most frequent application would be in the formulation of nail polish removers.

What has acetone in it?

Acetone occurs naturally in the human body as a byproduct of metabolism. Acetone is also a primary ingredient in many nail polish removers. As a solvent, acetone is frequently incorporated in other solvent systems or “blends,” used in the formulation of lacquers for automotive and furniture finishes, for example.

What is pure acetone?

In chemistry, a pure chemical compound is a chemical substance which contains only one substance and a particular set of molecules or ions. Pure acetone contains only the molecules or ions of acetone.

 

Sources

1CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 (fda.gov)
2CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 (fda.gov)
3Peer Consultation (tera.org)
4Substance Information – ECHA (europa.eu)
5Acetone (EHC 207, 1998) (inchem.org)
6IRIS Assessments | IRIS | US EPA
7Environment and Climate Change Canada – Evaluating Existing Substances – Screening Assessment on Acetone
83542nail-salon-workers-guide.pdf (osha.gov)
9Health Hazards in Nail Salons – Overview | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov)