Acetone is a colorless volatile solvent that is found naturally in plants, trees and volcanic gases. It is also produced as a byproduct in the human body and used as a source of energy by brain and nerve tissue. Manufacturers use acetone as a solvent to dissolve other substances and make products such as,
- Printing inks
- Photographic film
Acetone is also used for cleaning and drying precision parts.
The chemical is present in such a large extent in our day to day lives that it is fairly easy to be exposed to acetone. At home there are a number of household products that contain acetone like paints, nail polish removers, adhesives etc. Even drinking water and some food products may contain acetone. Most commercial cleaning products, shoes, and plastics contain acetone. If you work in such manufacturing units, the chances of your acetone exposure increases.
Acetone can enter the body by inhalation, skin contact or ingestion. If you are a smoker or exposed to passive smoking, the chemical can enter the body as tobacco smoke contains acetone. You can also be exposed from vehicular pollution as well as living near a landfill site.
Common Products Containing Acetone
What household products contain acetone? Some commonly used products that contain this solvent include:
- Nail polish and nail polish removers
- Hair colors
- Hair tonics and conditioners
- Manicuring preparations and other toiletries
- Sun tan and other lotions applied on the skin
- Baby wipes
- Pre-moistened towels
- Art material including clay, finger paints, and tempera colors
- Paints, paint thinners, varnish removers and other paint related solutions
- Medicinal creams applied on the skin
- Leather shoes and dressings
- Shoe polishes and creamers
- Pet flea and tick products
- Pet collars
- Household surface cleaners (liquid or aerosols)
- Furniture polish and cleaners
- Particleboard furniture, cabinets or fixtures
- Wooden furniture
- Car polish and cleaners
- Lubricating oils
- Insecticides and pesticides used at home and garden
To check specific household products you can also see this list maintained by US Department of Health and Human Services that specifies the percentage of acetone present in each brand.
Acetone is normally a byproduct produced in the human body when other ketone bodies are produced. These ketone bodies are used a source of energy by the brain and nerve tissues. Usually the level of ketone bodies in the body is negligible and acetone is removed from the body through urination or exhalation.
But when there is overexposure of the chemical, it may lead to breathing problems, nausea, seizures, unconsciousness, coma or even death.
The usual distress signs of acetone exposure are,
Moderate to high exposure:
- Skin irritation
- Shortness of breath
- Nose, throat and eye irritation
- Increased palpitation
High exposure repeatedly:
- Kidney damage
- Damage to skin
- Low blood pressure
- Bronchial irritation
- Increased urination
- Abdominal pain
Acetone is thus a widely used chemical but one that can lead to serious health troubles. Having an awareness of what household products contain acetone can help you monitor your exposure level. Use consumer products with discretion to avoid over exposure to this fruity solvent.
Image basykes via cc Flickr