Acetone (C3H60) is a colorless liquid that is used as a solvent in products, such as in nail polish and paint, and in the manufacture of other chemicals such as plastics and fibers.


Acetone is a naturally occurring compound that is found in plants and is released during the metabolism of fat in the body. It is also found in volcanic gases, and is manufactured by the chemical industry (sometimes under the label “2-propanone,” a chemical synonym). Acetone is also found in the atmosphere as an oxidation product of both natural and anthropogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It has a strong smell and taste, and is soluble in water. The evaporation point of acetone is quite low compared to water, and the chemical is highly flammable. Because it is so volatile, the acetone manufacturing process results in a large percentage of the compound entering the atmosphere.

Common symptoms of exposure

Ingesting acetone can cause damage to the tissues in the mouth and can lead to unconsciousness. Breathing acetone can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; headaches; dizziness; nausea; unconsciousness; and possible coma and death. Women may experience menstrual irregularity. However, despite concern about the carcinogenic potential of acetone, laboratory studies and studies of workers routinely exposed to acetone show no evidence that acetone causes cancer.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances continues monitoring for suspected acetone exposure-related contributions to respiratory, gastrointestinal, kidney, and liver diseases.

See also Cancer ; Volatile organic compound .



Canadian Centre for Occumpational Health and Safety (CCOHS). “Acetone.” (accessed May 31, 2018).

Marie H. Bundy

Disclaimer:   This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.

(MLA 8th Edition)