ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences



ACETONE (CH3COCH3) UN No. 1090; Hazchem 2[Y]E

Dimethylformaldehyde, dimethylketal, dimethyl ketone, ketone propane, beta­ketopropane, methyl ketone, propane, 2-propane, 2­propanone, pyroacetic acid, pyroacetic ether, 1B­ketopropane.
Aliphatic ketone, colourless liquid with characteristic odour. Extremely flammable, vapours are heavier than air and may travel a considerable distance to a source of ignition and flash back. May be ignited by heat, spark or flame. Containers may explode in the heat of a fire. Vapour hazards from explosion exist indoors, and outdoors where a run­off to sewers has occurred.
Acetone is incompatible with:
Acetic acid ­ possibility of explosion.
Chloroform ­ violent reaction in the presence of a base.
Chromium trioxide ­ ignition at ambient temperatures.
Hydrogen peroxide ­ causes explosion.
Nitric acid ­ violent reaction and possible explosion.
Sulphuric acid ­ violent reaction and ignition.
Sulphur dioxide ­ violent reaction.
This is not a complete list of incompatibilities for acetone but is a list of incompatibilities with the more commonly used chemicals in the histology laboratory.
Acetone has a low order of toxicity and its effects are not accumulative. It is readily absorbed into the body by all routes of exposure. In large doses it is a narcotic and central nervous system depressant, producing effects similar to but greater than ethyl alcohol. Inhalation in amounts that will not cause narcosis causes irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory system. Skin exposure causes defatting of the skin with the subsequent risk of developing dermatitis. Oral toxicity is low. Persons with chronic respiratory or skin diseases may be at an increased risk. The effect of alcohol on staff will enhance the toxic effects of acetone. Acute exposure to skin and eyes may produce irritation. A splash to the eye may cause severe irritation. Inhalation can cause an immediate threat to life with nasal and throat irritation, laryngitis, bronchitis, coughing and rhinorrhea. Central nervous system symptoms are headache, dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, confusion, nausea, incoordination and coma. Ingestion may cause the above symptoms and in addition gastritis, vomiting, haematemesis, stupor, twitching, collapse, convulsions and paralysis. Heating produces toxic oxides of carbon.
Keep away from heat, sparks and flames.
Avoid breathing the vapour.
Avoid contact with eyes and skin.
Keep container closed.
Do not dispose of large quantities down the sink.
Use only with adequate ventilation.
Wash hands thoroughly after handling.
Many plastics are unsuitable as storage containers for acetone.
Handle only when using an approved fume hood that is explosion proof and that will control the level of exposure to below recommended limits. NH & MRC recommended limits are:
8 hours 15 minutes
750 ppm 1000 ppm
1780 mg/ml 2375 mg/ml
Always wear protective clothing; a long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves (PVC, neoprene or nitrile) and safety goggles as a minimum requirement. If exposure levels are going to be high then use an approved aspirator.
Skin ­ remove contaminated clothing and shoes then wash the affected area with large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has disappeared (approximately 15 minutes). Wash contaminated clothing before re­use.
Eyes ­ if a splash to the eye occurs immediately flush the eye with large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has been removed (approximately 15 minutes). Seek medical advice.
Inhalation ­ remove the patient to fresh air immediately. If breathing has stopped apply artificial respiration. If breathing is difficult give oxygen. Get medical advice.
Ingestion ­ if the patient is conscious rinse the mouth with water and give two to four glasses of water to drink. Induce vomiting by touching a finger to the back of the throat or by administering syrup of ipecac. Seek immediate medical attention. Never give a drink to, or attempt to induce vomiting in an unconscious person.
Store in a well ventilated, cool and dry atmosphere away from any heat source. Store in drums or safety cans with identifying labels which indicate clearly the highly flammable nature of the contents. Do not store close to incompatible materials.
Wear rubber gloves, face shield and laboratory coat. Have an all purpose canister respirator available.
Spills: absorb on paper. Evaporate in an iron pan in a flame proof fume hood then burn the paper.
Package lots: atomise into an incinerator. Combustion may be improved by mixing with a more flammable solvent.
Acetone is harmful to aquatic life therefore contamination of waterways must be avoided.


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