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Ethyl Acetate: A Sweet-Smelling Safety Hazard

Apr 10, 2015
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What is Ethyl Acetate and Where is it Found?

Ethyl acetate is a relatively common chemical used in a variety of industrial and household products. This compound liquid is colorless, with a characteristically sweet, pleasant odor. Due to its potential hazards, ethyl acetate should be stored and handled appropriately to avoid hazards to your health. Read on to learn more about ethyl acetate dangers, safety, and storage in both the home and workplace.

Common Uses of Ethyl Acetate

Ethyl acetate is manufactured on a large scale, as over 1 million tons are produced annually in the world. This chemical is used commonly due to its low cost and agreeable aroma. While you may not have heard of ethyl acetate, you’re likely familiar with some of the products it’s used in:

  • Nail polish remover
  • Cigarettes
  • Glue
  • Paint (as an activator or hardener)
  • Confections (as an artificial flavor)
  • Perfume

In addition to the common uses listed above, ethyl acetate is also used in the process of decaffeinating coffee and tea, and it occurs as a byproduct of acetic acid and ethyl alcohol in wine fermentation.

Safety & Health Hazards Associated with Ethyl Acetate

Despite its use in many common household products, ethyl acetate has the potential to be seriously hazardous if handled incorrectly, especially in the case of accidental exposure. Ethyl acetate is highly flammable, as well as toxic when ingestion or inhaled, and this chemical can be seriously damaging to internal organs in the case of repeated or prolonged exposure. Ethyl acetate can also cause irritation when it comes into contact with the eyes or skin.

Ethyl Acetate Safety, Handling & First Aid

When handling ethyl acetate in the workplace (or using household products that contain this chemical) it is important to be safe and wear appropriate personal protective equipment. Because ethyl acetate is extremely flammable, it is vital to exercise caution and keep this chemical far away from any open flame, sparks, heat or any environment where ignition is even remotely possible. When handling ethyl acetate in the workplace, it is recommended that you wear safety glasses, gloves, and a vapor respirator.

Steps to Take When Exposure to Ethyl Acetate Occurs

  • Inhalation - Seek fresh air immediately. If victim’s breathing is difficult, administer oxygen. If breathing is absent, give artificial respiration and seek medical attention immediately.
  • Eye Contact - Remove contact lenses if present. Immediately flush eyes with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes, and seek medical attention.
  • Skin Contact - Wash affected area with soap and water. Cover irritated skin with an emollient.
  • Ingestion - Do NOT induce vomiting. Loosen tight clothing. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person. Seek medical attention.

Safe Storage & Disposal of Ethyl Acetate

Store ethyl acetate in an approved area away from all possible sources of ignition. This chemical is also sensitive to moisture and should be kept in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area in a sealed container. Keep away from incompatible materials such as oxidizing agents, acids, and alkalis. Ethyl acetate must be disposed of in accordance with federal, state, and local environmental control regulations, so be sure to research proper chemical disposal procedures in your area.

Need more safety information about ethyl acetate or additional chemicals in your workplace? Check out our extensive MSDS database to learn more.

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