Acetone

In chemistry, acetone (also known as dimethyl ketone or 2-propanone and beta-ketopropane) is the simplest representative of the ketones. Its chemical formula is CH3(CO)CH3 and its structure is

Acetone is a colourless mobile flammable liquid with a pleasant, somewhat fruity odor, melting at -95.4 °C and boiling at 56.53 °C. It has a specific gravity of 0.819 (at 0 °C). It is readily soluble in water, ethanol, ether, etc., and itself serves as an important solvent. The most familiar household use of acetone is as the active ingredient in nail-polish remover. Acetone is also used to make plastic, fibers, drugs, and other chemicals.

As a member of the ketone bodies it is present in very small quantity in normal urine and in the blood. Larger quantities can be found after starvation and in diabetic patients with severe insulin deficiency (that is untreated or inadequately treated persons); a fruity smell of the breath caused by acetone is one symptom of diabetic ketoacidosis. See ketone bodies for more information.

Acetone occurs naturally in plants, trees, volcanic gases, forest fires, and as a product of the breakdown of body fat. It is present in vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke, and landfill sites. Industrial processes contribute more acetone to the environment than natural processes. It is found among the products formed in destructive distillation of wood, sugar, cellulose, etc., and for this reason it is always present in crude wood spirit, from which the greater portion of it may be recovered by fractional distillation.

It forms a hydrazone with phenyl hydrazine and an oxime with hydroxylamine. Reduction by sodium amalgam converts it into isopropyl alcohol; oxidation by chromic acid gives carbon dioxide and acetic acid. It reacts with ammonia to form di- and triacetoneamines. It also unites directly with hydrocyanic acid to form the nitrile of α-oxyisobutyric acid.

By the action of various reagents, such as lime, caustic potash, hydrochloric acid, etc., acetone is converted into condensation products, mesityl oxide C6H10O, phorone C9H14O, etc., being formed. On distillation with sulphuric acid (H2SO4), it is converted into mesitylene C9H12 (symmetrical trimethyl benzene). Acetone has also been used in the artificial production of indigo. In the presence of iodine and an alkali it gives iodoform.

Health effects

After inhaling acetone fumes or ingesting acetone, it enters the blood, which then carries it to all the organs in the body. If it is a small amount, the liver breaks it down to chemicals that are not harmful and uses these chemicals to make energy for normal body functions. Breathing moderate- to-high levels of acetone for short periods of time, however, can cause nose, throat, lung, and eye irritation; headaches; light-headedness; confusion; increased pulse rate; effects on blood; nausea; vomiting; unconsciousness and possibly coma; and shortening of the menstrual cycle in women.

Swallowing very high levels of acetone can result in unconsciousness and damage to the skin in the mouth. Skin contact can result in irritation and damage to the skin.

The smell and respiratory irritation or burning eyes that occur from moderate exposure levels are excellent warning signs that can help avoid breathing damaging levels of acetone.

Health effects from long-term exposures are known mostly from animal studies. Kidney, liver, and nerve damage, increased birth defects, and lowered ability to reproduce (males only) occurred in animals exposed long-term. It is not known if people would have these same effects.


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