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Acetone (also known as propanone, dimethyl ketone, 2-propanone, propan-2-one and β-ketopropane) is a common industrial solvent and the simplest representative of the ketone group of solvents.

Quick Facts

Name: Acetone

Molecular Formula: CH3COCH3

Use: industrial solvent

Source: naturally occurring and synthetically composed

Recommended daily intake: none

Absorption: dermal, inhalation, ingestion

Sensitive individuals: all

Toxicity/symptoms: can cause liver damage and is an eye/skin irritant

A colorless, flammable liquid at room temperature, it occurs naturally and is also chemically synthesized. Acetone is miscible with water, ethanol, and ether and itself serves as an important solvent (#INCHEM, 1994).

Chemical structure retrieved from New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Exposure and Health Effects

Small amounts of acetone are metabolically produced in the body, mainly from fat. In humans, fasting significantly increases its endogenous production. Acetone levels can be elevated in diabetic individuals.

Contamination of water, food (e.g. milk), or the air (acetone is volatile) can lead to chronic exposure to acetone. A number of acute poisoning cases have been described: acetone can damage the mucosa of the mouth and can irritate and damage skin; accidental intake of large amounts of acetone may lead to unconsciousness and death (#Likhodii, et al., 2003).

The effects of long-term exposure to acetone are known mostly from animal studies. Kidney, liver, and nerve damage, increased birth defects, and lowered reproduction ability of males occurred in chronically exposed animals. It is not known if these same effects would be exhibited in humans. Pregnant women should avoid contact with acetone and acetone fumes in order to avoid the possibility of birth defects, which include brain damage (#Likhodii, et al., 2003).

Interestingly, acetone has been shown to have anticonvulsant effects in animal models of epilepsy, in the absence of toxicity, when administered in very small (millimolar) concentrations. It has been hypothesized that the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet used clinically to control drug-resistant epilepsy in children works by elevating acetone levels in the brain (#Likhodii, et al., 2003).

Uses and Benefits

Acetone is used to make plastic, fibers, drugs, and other chemicals. It is also used to dissolve other substances (#ATSDR).


The vapors should be avoided. Acetone can also be absorbed through the skin. In no circumstance should it be consumed directly or indirectly. Always use goggles when handling acetone; it can cause permanent eye damage (corneal clouding) (#Likhodii, et al., 2003).

External Links


Likhodii SS, Serbanescu I, Cortez MA, Murphy P, Snead OC 3rd, Burnham WM. Anticonvulsant properties of acetone, a brain ketone elevated by the ketogenic diet. Ann Neurol. 2003, 54(2):219-226).

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