Acetates are used in many products such as cosmetics, cleaning supplies, paints and lacquers, and textiles. They are also used in food manufacturing. Acetate is a salt or ester formed from acetic acetate. Acetates are the most common building block for biosynthesis, such as fatty acids. Acetates are clear, flammable liquids with a fruity odor. Short-term exposure to high levels of acetate can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat and with continued exposure headache, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and unconsciousness. Prolonged exposures may cause clouding of the eye, damage to the lungs, and heart, kidney, and liver damage. Some forms may affect reproduction.
Common hazardous forms of acetate include the following: 

  • Methyl acetate is used in the manufacture of lacquers, paint removers, and pharmaceuticals. OSHA has a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 200 ppm and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist (ACGIH) has a Threshold Limit Value (TLV) of 200 ppm and a Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL) of 250 ppm.
  • n-Butyl acetate is used in photographic film, nail polish removers, lacquers, perfumes, oils, and resins and has a PEL of 150 ppm and TLV of 50 ppm and STEL of 150 ppm.
  • Ethyl acetate is used as a solvent and for paints, varnishes, lacquers, cleaning mixtures, and perfumes. It also is used for decaffeinating coffee beans. It has a PEL of 400 ppm and TLV of 50 ppm.

Other acetate compounds with occupational exposure standards include forms of amyl acetate, isopropyl acetate, sodium fluroacetate, and vinyl acetate,
Acetates are flammable liquids and it is important that this hazard is controlled. They should be used and stored in areas away from sources of ignition, in booths or enclosures, or in fire-rated locations. These areas should be equipped with automatic fire protection. For individual employees, use in approved containers and with non-sparking tools. 
To control inhalation hazards, use local exhaust ventilation or enclosures or paint booths with ventilation rated for flammable locations. For added protection, employees should wear respirators appropriate for the hazard. To control eye and skin contact, wear protective clothing such as face masks, gloves, and Tyvek type suits. Washing facilities should also be provided. Employees should be trained in the effects of the kinds of acetates used at the facilities, how to best protect themselves from these exposures, and how to follow emergency procedures and first aid.
Acetates are widely used in industry in various forms. It is important that the flammability and toxic effects of these chemicals be controlled and that employees know how to handle and control these hazards.

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