Hazardous Chemical Information System (HCIS)

Exposure Standard Documentation


CAS Number:67-64-1
Exposure Standard:

TWA: 500 ppm (approx = 1,195 mg/m3)

STEL: 1,000 ppm (approx = 2,380 mg/m3)

Adopted Exposure Standard:

TWA: 500ppm (approx = 1190mg/m3)

STEL: 1000ppm (approx = 2380mg/m3)

Exposure Standard first adopted in 1990

No standard should be applied without reference to Guidance on the interpretation of Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants.

Documentation notice: National Occupational Health and SafetyCommission documentation available for these values.


CAS Registry Number:67-64-1
Dimethyl ketone
Molecula Formula:CH3COCH3


Acetone is a clear, colourless, highly volatile, flammable liquid with a characteristic aromatic odour. It exists normally in small amounts as a metabolite in human blood and urine

(1) . Commercially, acetone is produced by catalytic dehydrogenation of isopropyl alcohol or by oxidation of cumene.

Acetone is the simplest but most commercially important ketone. Its physical and chemical properties include:

Molecular weight:58.1
Melting point:-94°C
Boiling point:56.5°C
Closed cup flash point:-18°C
Specific gravity:0.788 (25°C)
Vapour pressure:180 mmHg (20°C)
Lower explosion limit:2.9%
Upper explosion limit:12.8%
Solubility:Readily soluble in water, alcohol and ether
Odour threshold:200-400ppm



Acetone is a widely used industrial solvent and chemical intermediate. It is found in paints, varnishes, lacquers and is used as a solvent for cements in the artificial leather and rubber industries. Acetone is also an excellent solvent for many natural gums and resins, and also for cellulose derivatives such as nitrocellulose, cellulose ester, etc. The evaporation rate of acetone makes it also quite useful for cleaning and drying precision parts.


4.1 Systemic Effects

Inhalation of acetone vapours in high concentrations produces dryness of the mouth and throat, dizziness, nausea, uncoordinated movements, loss of coordinated speech, drowsiness and, in extreme case, coma

(2) .

An acetone concentration of 52200ppm was found in one animal study

(1) to produce narcosis in rats and was fatal at 126600ppm for one hour.

Harris et al

(6) reported a case of acute acetone intoxication in a 10-year old boy who wore a hip cast set with a mixture of 90% acetone, 9% pentane and 1% methyl salicylate. This patient had a habit of sleeping with his head under the cover which would have increased the respiratory exposure. The following symptoms were observed: restlessness, headache, vomiting (positive benzidine for blood), stupor, blood pressure 80/60, rapid and irregular respiration rate. The patient's condition returned to almost normal after 16 hours of therapy. The relative amounts of acetone inhaled and percutaneously absorbed were not determined. However, the authors considered that the degree of skin absorption under ordinary circumstances was quite small.


(7) described the effects of acetone on 8 workers who were cleaning a pit: eye and throat irritation, weakness of legs, headache, dizziness and lightheadedness. One of the workers fainted. Acetone concentrations (Drager tube measurements) in the pit, three hours, 18 hours, and one week after the incident, were in excess of 12000ppm.

DiVincenzo et al

(3) studied the elimination of acetone in human subjects. Nine workers were singly exposed to 100 or 500ppm of acetone vapour for 2 or 4 hours. All of them exhibited no untoward effects after such exposures. Subjective symptoms were also absent. The authors reported the concentrations of acetone in the breath and blood were found to be directly proportional to the magnitude of the exposure and the half-life of acetone in the blood was approximately three hours.

Vigliani et al (cited in (1), (2) & (8)) examined workers engaged in the production of acetone where concentrations were reported to be 1000ppm for 3 hours/day for 7-15 years. The authors reported inflammation of the respiratory tract, stomach and duodenum, attacks of giddiness and loss of strength. No mention was made of other solvent exposures.

4.2 Sensory Effects

In 1943, Nelson et al

(4) exposed 10 unacclimatised human subjects to acetone vapour for 3-5 minutes in a fume chamber. The highest concentration which the subjects considered satisfactory for 8-hour exposure was 200ppm. A slight irritation was experienced at 300ppm, but 500ppm was still tolerated by most subjects. This irritation threshold study has certain shortcomings. The concentration of acetone in the exposure chamber was calculated rather than measured analytically, so the true concentrations might have been different to those reported. Moreover, the exposure periods of 3-5 minutes were not long enough to show if adaptation would occur. In fact, other researchers have proposed

(9) that in testing with airborne irritants in human experimentation, exposures should last at least 15 minutes and be repeated 10 times. Repetition is necessary because experience has shown that single exposure tests usually lead to unnecessarily low limits.

Matsushita et al (cited in (1) & (8)) exposed groups of five students to 100, 250, 500 or 1000ppm for 6 hours. Methods of generating acetone vapour or of measuring airborne acetone concentrations were not presented. The authors reported irritation of the eyes, nose and throat at 500 and 1000ppm and that acclimatisation occurred rapidly.

Raleigh and McGee

(5) studied workers who cleaned filter press plates that contained a thick syrup-like compound of cellulose acetate solution dissolved in acetone. For the operation of pulling down filters, which was done 3 hours per shift, acetone concentrations ranged from 155 to 6596ppm (average is 2070ppm). At other times acetone concentrations were in the range of 25 to 904ppm. The daily time-weighted average concentrations were in the range of 950 to 1060ppm. Eye irritation was noted in 7 of the 9 workers. Other symptoms reported less frequently included headache, lightheadedness, nasal irritation and throat irritation. The authors reported that although acetone might be detected at levels of 200 to 400ppm on initial exposure, most workers were not aware of its odour until the concentration was in the vicinity of 1000ppm or more. The report also stated that the symptoms were intermittent, transient and occurred when concentrations of acetone in air were considerably in excess of 1000ppm. A review of the raw data, however, indicated that four (out of 31) instances of eye irritation occurred from exposures between 750-1000ppm.

DiVincenzo et al

(3) , in their acetone elimination study (as described in Section 4.1), exposed nine male workers to acetone vapour concentrations of 100 and 500ppm for 2 to 4 hours. No symptoms were reported at 500ppm although they did note an awareness of acetone at this concentration.

4.3 Other Effects

No reports were seen in the literature that implicated acetone as a carcinogen or mutagen

(2) .


8 hours

TWA (ppm)

Excursion Level
ACGIH (US) 1989-907501000 (

STEL - 15 min.)

NIOSH (USA) 1978250-
OSHA (USA) 19897501000 (

STEL - 15 min.)

Sweden 1984250500 (STV - 15 min.)
West Germany 198810002000 (Type IV)
HSE (U.K.) 198910001250 (

STEL - 10 min.)

Netherlands 1986750750 x 2 (15 min.)


Acetone is a sensory irritant. Its half-life in the blood is approximately three hours and seems to have no long-term health effects.

Mild irritation to acclimatised workers begins at about 750ppm and will be more markedly felt when concentrations exceed 1000 ppm. Unacclimatised subjects will experience irritation at about 350-500ppm, but acclimatisation can occur rapidly.


To minimise sensory irritation, the Exposure Standards Working Group recommends a time-weighted average exposure standard of 500ppm and a

STEL of 1000ppm.


1. Krasavage JL et al, Ketones, In: Patty's Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology, ed. by Clayton GD & Clayton FE, 3rd rev.ed., Vol 2C, John Wiley & Sons, 4720-4727, 1981

2. American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values and Biological Exposure Indices, 5th ed., Ohio, 1986

3. DiVincenzo et al, "Exposure of man and dog to low concentrations of acetone vapour", AIHAJ, 34, pp.329, 1973

4. Nelson KW et al, "Sensory response to certain industrial solvent vapours", J Ind Hyg Tox, 25, 282-285, 1943

5. Raleigh RL & McGee WA, "Effects of short, high-concentration exposure to acetone as determined by observation in the work area", J Occup Med, 14, pp.607, 1972

6. Harris et al, "Acute acetone poisoning caused by setting fluid for immobilising casts", Brit Med J, 2, 1024, 1952

7. Ross DS, "Acute acetone intoxication involving eight male workers", Ann Occ Hyg, 16, pp.73, 1973

8. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (USA), Criteria for a Recommended Standard...Occupational Exposure to Ketones, DHEW (NIOSH) Pub. No.78-173, 1978

9. Dinman BD, Principles and use of Standards of Quality for the Work Environment, In: NIOSH's The Industrial Environment - its Evaluation and Control, pp.80, 1973


Documentation notice:

Entries carrying a notice for National Occupational Health and Safety Commission documentation indicate that these substances have been reviewed in detail by the Exposure Standards Expert Working Group and that documentation supporting the adopted national values is available in the National Commission's Documentation of the Exposure Standards [NOHSC:10003(1995)].