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What Are the Safety Hazards of Acetone?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 23, 2024
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The safety hazards of acetone include irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs if the substance comes into contact with the person through vapor. If acetone is ingested, it can cause irritation to the stomach and, consequently, vomiting. The vapor released during the ingestion can also cause more severe damage to the lungs, but it is worth noting that ingestion is an unlikely event. The hazards of acetone when it comes into direct contact with the skin include mild irritation, dryness of the skin, and swelling. The possible complications of contact with acetone are generally mild and are unlikely to cause any serious medical problems.

Most contact people have with acetone will be through inhalation of the vapors produced by the substance. Generally, the hazards of acetone associated with inhalation of the vapors are related to the irritation of the membranes within the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. People who have been exposed to acetone have also reported tiredness, headaches, and dizziness. Inhalation of acetone vapors can also produce a feeling akin to drunkenness, as well as possible nausea and vomiting. If a person is exposed to extremely high concentrations of acetone, he or she could collapse, go into a coma, or even die.

People may have difficulty determining whether the vapors produced by acetone are affecting them, and this could lead to increased exposure time. Initial symptoms can include the production of tears, a burning sensation around the eyes, and dizziness. Exposure to acetone can also result in a cough which does not bring up mucous, which is indicative of the vapors reaching the lungs. People who frequently come into contact with acetone can develop a tolerance, meaning that the effects may be milder at the same concentrations.

Contact with acetone through the skin opens up some possible, but minor, hazards of acetone. Most people who come into contact with the substance will only experience some general skin irritation. This is characterized by some redness and inflammation of the skin, which will usually clear up when the person is removed from contact with the substance. People may also experience some general dryness of the skin. This is particularly likely when using an acetone-based nail polish remover.

Ingestion can open up more severe hazards of acetone, but is a very unlikely circumstance. The general effects of ingestion are similar to those experienced after inhalation of the vapors. In severe cases, one of the hazards of acetone ingestion can be a short coma, but ordinarily this will have no long-term effects. The biggest potential risk of ingesting acetone is that it may be inhaled while being ingested. This could cause severe damage to the lungs, but is unlikely because the substance evaporates fairly quickly.

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