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Acetone, also called dimethyl ketone, is one of the ketone group of solvents that also includes methyl ethyl ketone. Mechanics, painters, and fiberglass workers are frequent users of acetone for various purposes in the shop, and many people are familiar with its pleasant sweet-smelling odor. Acetone is an excellent solvent for oils and greases. It is often used in the electronics industry for degreasing and cleaning of precision electronic parts. It is also used in the formulation of lacquers, rubber cements, cleaning fluids, and paint removers, as well as the manufacture of methacrylic and epoxy resins. Acetone can also absorb 22 times its volume of acetylene gas, which permits safe and economical shipment of acetylene in cylinders.
Acetone is one of the least toxic of the many organic solvents used in the work place. Its toxicity is low for both acute and chronic exposures. However, prolonged inhalation of high concentrations of acetone vapor causes irritation of the respiratory tract, headache, loss of memory, and in extreme cases, unconsciousness. Other symptoms of acetone intoxication include dizziness, nausea, or drowsiness. Continued skin contact may produce a mild form of dermatitis.
Control Vapor Concentrations: Acetone vapor in work areas should be maintained at or below the Threshold Limit Value of 750 PPM (averaged during an 8-hour workday), with a maximum Short Term Exposure Limit (defined as 15 minutes) no higher than 1000 PPM. For most operations, vapor can be kept at safe levels by enclosing the operation, by ventilating, or both. Opening windows or doors is often adequate for most small uses. Local exhaust may be needed with larger operations in order to capture the vapors at the source and keep them out of the breathing zone.
Wear PPE: Employees engaged in routine handling of acetone should wear milled butyl rubber gloves and rubber aprons for protection against skin contact. Chemical goggles should be worn where necessary. When complete face protection is necessary, a face shield should be worn.
Fire Prevention: Acetone is a serious fire hazard and can ignite with only a 2.6% concentration in the air. Water solutions of acetone are also highly flammable; a solution of 10 percent acetone in water has a flash point of about 80 F (27C). All sources of ignition, including spark-producing mechanisms or operations should be eliminated in areas where acetone is stored, handled, or used. Vapor proof electrical systems should also be installed (Class 1 - Division 1). Fire extinguishers for acetone fires include foam, carbon dioxide, and dry chemical. Water used on an acetone fire should be in the form of a spray or fog in order to prevent spreading the fire.
First Aid: If a person has inhaled small amounts of acetone vapor and exhibits any of the symptoms of acetone intoxication, they should be moved to fresh air and the effects will often disappear in a few hours. If large amounts have been inhaled, the person should be moved to fresh air and medical assistance immediately summoned. If breathing has stopped or respiration is weak; artificial respiration should be given. If splashed in the eyes, the eyes should be irrigated immediately with large quantities of running water for at least 15 minutes. An evaluation by a physician as soon as possible is recommended. Skin contaminated with acetone should be washed with soap and water, and any contaminated clothing removed.
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