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Acetic acid

General Description

  • Synonyms: Acetic acid (aqueous); Ethanoic acid; Glacial acetic acid (pure compound); Methanecarboxylic acid [Note: Can be found in concentrations of 5-8% in vinegar.]
  • OSHA IMIS Code Number: 0020
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 64-19-7
  • NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) Identification Number: AF1225000
  • Department of Transportation Regulation Number (49 CFR 172.101) and Emergency Response Guidebook: 153 (10-80% acid)
    2789 132 (>80% acid)
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, Acetic Acid: chemical description, physical properties, potentially hazardous incompatibilities, and more.

Exposure Limits

  • OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL):
  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV): 10 ppm, 25 mg/m3 TWA; 15 ppm, 37 mg/m3 STEL
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL): 10 ppm, 25 mg/m3 TWA; 15 ppm, 37 mg/m3 STEL

Health Factors

  • NIOSH Immediately Dangerous To Life or Health Concentration (IDLH): 50 ppm
  • Potential Symptoms: Irritation of eyes, skin; nose, throat; cough, sore throat, eye, skin burns; blisters, skin sensitization; dental erosion; black skin, hyperkeratosis; conjunctivitis, lacrimation; headache, dizziness; shortness of breath, pharyngeal edema; chronic bronchitis; pulmonary edema (may be delayed); loss of vision; Ingestion Acute: Abdominal pain, burning sensation, vomiting, diarrhea; hemolysis, hemoglobinuria, kidney failure; shock or collapse
  • Health Effects: Irritation- Eye, Nose, Throat, Skin---Marked (HE14) Asthma (HE9), Lung damage (HE10, HE11)
  • Affected Organs: Eyes, skin, respiratory system, teeth
  • Notes:
    1. Vapor/air mixtures of acetic acid may be explosive at temperatures above 39°C.
    2. Acetic acid is listed by the FDA as a direct food substance affirmed as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) (21 CFR 184.1005).
    3. Five cases of occupational asthma with chronic rhinitis and sinusitis were reported among employees in a vegetable pickling plant where the mean acetic acid concentration in 10 workroom air samples was 12.2 ppm. Non-smokers (n=74) also had significantly increased incidences of dyspnea, hoarseness, and headache than did smokers (n=29) at this plant.
    4. Acetic acid is one of the VOCs found in both liquid and paste forms of butter flavoring used in microwave popcorn production plants. In one of these plants where severe lung disease was found in 9 former employees, NIOSH found a mean acetic acid concentration of 5.5 ppm (n=8), with a top measurement of 12.4 ppm, in the mixing area and a mean of 2.7 ppm (n=24) in the microwave packaging area.
    5. Protracted airway hyperresponsiveness and symptoms of chest tightness, coughing, and shortness of breath were described in several hospital employees after acute exposure to vapors from a gallon of glacial acetic acid that was spilled on a floor.
    6. The release of acetic acid during the curing of some silicone sealers is thought to be related to the severity of dental erosion in those who work with silicone.
  • Date Last Revised: 03/22/2007
  • Literature Basis:
    • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. Acetic Acid.
    • International Chemical Safety Cards (WHO/IPCS/ILO). Acetic Acid.
    • Boylstein, R., Piacitelli, C., Grote, A., Kanwal, R., Kullman, G. and Kreiss, K. Diacetyl emissions and airborne dust from butter flavorings used in microwave popcorn production. J. Occup. Environ. Hyg. 3(10): 530-535, 2006.
    • Johansson, A.K., Johansson, A., Stan, V. and Ohlson, C.G. Silicone sealers, acetic acid vapours and dental erosion: a work-related risk? Swed. Dent. J. 29(2): 61-69, 2005.
    • Kanwal, R., et al. NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Report, HETA #2000-0401-2991 (PDF). Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation - Jasper, Missouri, January 2006.
    • Kern, D.G.: Outbreak of the reactive airways dysfunction syndrome after a spill of glacial acetic acid. Am. Rev. Respir. Dis. 144(5): 1058-1064, 1991.
    • Pohanish, R.P. (editor): Acetic Acid . In, Sittig's Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals and Carcinogens, Fourth Ed., Vol. 1. Norwich, NY: Noyes Publications, William Andrew Publishing, 2002, pp. 30-32.
    • Zuskin, E., Mustajbegovic, J., Schachter, E.N., Pavicic, D. and Budak, A.: A follow-up study of respiratory function in workers exposed to acid aerosols in a food-processing industry. Int. Arch. Occup. Environ. Health 70(6): 413-418, 1997.

Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Primary Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method (SLC1):
  • Charcoal Tube (100/50 mg sections)
  • analytical solvent: 0.01 N NaOH
  • maximum volume: 48 Liters
  • maximum flow rate: 0.2 L/min
  • current analytical method: Ion Chromatography; IC
  • method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA PV2119)
  • method classification: Partially Validated
On-Site Sampling Techniques/Methods:
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Gastec
  • model/type: 81
  • sampling information: 0.5 to 2 strokes
  • upper measurement limit: 100 ppm
  • detection limit: 0.2 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: 10% for 2 to 10 ppm, 5% for 10 to 50 ppm
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (SEI Certified)
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Matheson-Kitagawa
  • model/type: 8014-216S
  • sampling information: follow manufacturer's instructions
  • upper measurement limit: 50 ppm
  • detection limit: 1 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: unknown
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (SEI Certified)
Wipe Sampling Method:
  • Whatman smear tab
  • analytical solvent: Deionized water

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