Ethyl acetate is used as a solvent for varnishes, lacquers, dry cleaning, stains, fats and nitrocellulose. It is released during the production of artificial silk and leather, and during the preparation of photographic films and plates. It is released during the manufacture of linoleum, and 'plastic' wood, dyes, pharmaceuticals, drug intermediates, acetic acid, artificial fruit flavorings and essences, and perfumes and fragrances. Ethyl acetate is used as a solvent in nail polish, nail polish remover, base coats and other manicuring products. Ethyl acetate is present in wines.
Substance name: Ethyl acetate
CASR number: 141-78-6
Molecular formula: C4H8O2
Synonyms: Ethyl acetic ester; acetoxyethane; Acetic ether; vinegar naphtha; acetidin; Aceticester
Ethyl acetate is a colourless liquid with a pleasant fruity odour.
Melting Point: -83.6°C
Boiling Point: 77.1°C
Specific Gravity: 0.8945
Vapour Density: 3
Ethyl acetate is a flammable liquid, and an explosion hazard. It is slightly soluble in water, but soluble in most organic solvents.
The National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) holds data for all sources of Ethyl acetate emissions in Australia.
Short-term exposure to high levels of ethyl acetate results first in irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, followed by headache, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and unconsciousness. Very high concentrations may cause a stupor. Prolonged exposures may cause clouding of the eye, damage to the lungs and heart and kidney and liver problems.
Entering the body
Ethyl acetate will enter the body if we breathe in contaminated air, or eat or drink contaminated materials. Ethyl acetate can pass through the skin.
Workers in the industries that use or produce ethyl acetate are at risk of exposure. Consumers can be exposed to ethyl acetate by exposure to air from production and processing facilities using ethyl acetate. Consumers may also be exposed to ethyl acetate when using consumer products containing ethyl acetate (thinners for paint lacquers and enamels, nail preparations, etc) especially if there is not good ventilation, and by drinking wine.
Workplace exposure standards
Safe Work Australia sets the workplace exposure standard for ethyl acetate through the workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants:
- Maximum eight hour time weighted average (TWA): 200 parts per million (720 mg/m3)
- Maximum short term exposure limit (STEL): 400 parts per million (1440 mg/m3)
These standards are only appropriate for use in workplaces and are not limited to any specific industry or operation. Make sure you understand how to interpret the standards before you use them.
Drinking water guidelines
There is no guideline for ethyl acetate in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
Insufficient data are available to predict the toxicity of ethyl acetate to aquatic life, plants and land animals.
Entering the environment
Industrial emissions of ethyl acetate can produce elevated, concentrations in the atmosphere around the source. Ethyl acetate that makes its way into the ground, and does not evaporate, will eventually end up in the ground water.
Where it ends up
Ethyl acetate evaporates to a gas if released as a liquid. Ethyl acetate is a volatile organic chemical (VOC) and will contribute to the formation of smog.
No national guidelines.
The primary sources of ethyl acetate are the industries that manufacture it or use it in production. Some of the industries that manufacture it or use it in production are the chemical industry, pharmaceutical industry, manufacturers of paints, varnishes and lacquers. These emissions mainly are to the air.
Diffuse sources, and industry sources included in diffuse emissions data
Other possible emitters of ethyl acetate are vapours and spilling of commercial and household, varnish and lacquer and their removal, preparation of films and film plates, manufacture of artificial leather and silk, and consumer products containing ethyl acetate. These emissions are to the air unless there is a spill.
Natural sources of ethyl acetate are wines and naturally fermented products.
No mobile sources.
Some of the consumer products containing ethyl acetate are automotive and machinery paints, inks, lubricating oils, moisturising creams, nail polish, enamels and removers, paint thinners, premoistened towelettes, resin and rubber adhesives, and artificial flavourings. It is also found in wines.
Sources used in preparing this information
- Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) (1992), Australian Water Quality Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Waters.
- ChemFinder WebServer Project (1995), Ethyl acetate (accessed, June, 1999)
- Cornell University, Planning Design and Construction, MSDS, Ethyl acetate (accessed, June, 1999)
- Environmental Chemicals Data and Information Network (ECDIN) (date of update not given) Ethyl Acetate (accessed, March, 1999)
- Environmental Defense Fund (1998), Ethyl acetate: The Chemical Scorecard: (accessed, June, 1999)
- Meagher, D (1991), The Macmillan Dictionary of The Australian Environment, Macmillan Education Australia Pty Ltd.
- National Environment Protection Council (1998), National Environment Protection Measure for the National Pollutant Inventory. (accessed, March, 1999)
- NTP Chemical Repository, Radian Corporation, Ethyl Acetate (AUGUST 29, 1991) (accessed, June, 1999)
- Richardson, M (1992), Dictionary of Substances and their Effects, Royal Society of Chemistry, Clays Ltd, England.
- Sittig, M (1991), Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals and Carcinogens, 3rd edition, Noyes Publications, USA.
- Technical Advisory Panel (1999), Final Report to the National Environment Protection Council.
- US Department of Health and Human Services (1990), NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, Publication No. 90-117.
- US Occupational Health and Safety Administration, US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Guidelines for Ethyl Acetate (September, 1996), (accessed, June, 1999)
- Wine Spectator, Glossary of Wine Terms (accessed, June, 1999)
- Safe Work Australia, Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants, accessed June 2021.
- National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011) - Updated October 2017, accessed May 2018