IAQ UK is an independent organisation with the aim of 'raising the agenda of indoor air quality within the home and workplace'

IAQUK Resources - Ethyl Acetate

Source of pollution


Ethyl acetate is primarily used as a solvent and diluent, being favoured because of its low cost, low toxicity, and agreeable odour. For example, it is commonly used to clean circuit boards and in some nail varnish removers (acetone and acetonitrile are also used). Coffee beans and tea leaves are decaffeinated with this solvent. It is also used in paints as an activatoror hardener. Ethyl Acetate is present in confectionery, perfumes, and fruits such as apple flavour in chewing gum. 


Ethyl Acetate is widely employed as a solvent for nail varnishes and nail varnish removers.


Industrially, it is used to decaffeinate coffee beans and tea leaves.


In chemistry, it is often mixed with a non-polar solvent such as hexanes as a chromatography solvent. It is also used as a solvent for extractions.


It is used in confectionery and perfumes. It is used in perfumes because it confers a fruity smell (as do many esters) and evaporates quickly, leaving the scent of the perfume on the skin.


It is used in paints as an activatoror hardener.


Ethyl Acetate is a by-product of fermentation and is present in fruits and wines.


The aroma of Ethyl Acetate is most vivid in younger wines and contributes towards the general perception of "fruitiness" in the wine. Sensitivity varies, with most people having a perception threshold around 120 mg/L. Excessive amounts of Ethyl Acetate are considered a contaminant at relatively high concentrations and is regarded as an off-flavour. Exposure to oxygen can exacerbate the fault due to the oxidation of Ethanol to Acetaldehyde, which leaves the wine with a sharp vinegar-like taste.


Used as a solvent in dry cleaning and for lacquers, varnishes and stains.


Liberated during manufacture of smokeless powder; during manufacture of artificial silk and leather; and during preparation of photographic films and plates.


Liberated and used as a solvent during application of coatings and lacquers containing nitrocellulose, cellulose acetate, and cellulose nitrate, shellac, synthetic rubber, vinyl resins, and inks; used for contact lens mould release.


Liberated during manufacture of linoleum and plastic wood, dyes and pharmaceuticals.


Health effects


Ethyl Acetate is detectable at 7 to 50 ppm.  


Ethyl Acetate is an irritant of the eyes and upper respiratory tract at concentrations above 400 ppm.


Ethyl Acetate causes irritation, redness, and tearing of the eyes.  Sensitization of the lining of the nose may occur with symptoms of inflammation (swelling, runny nose, redness of lining).


Prolonged exposures may cause clouding of the eye, damage to the lungs and heart and kidney and liver problems.  Its carcinogenic properties are not known.


No biological monitoring test acceptable for routine use has yet been developed for Ethyl Acetate. 


Therefore baseline medical screening tests focuses on identifying the adverse effects of Ethyl Acetate by sampling and analyzing body tissues or fluids to provide an index of exposure to a toxic  substances or metabolite. With particular focus on the respiratory system, liver, kidneys and blood.

Technical - Ethyl Acetate - CH3-COO-CH2-CH3

  • Colourless liquid
  • Fruit-like odour
  • Detectable in the air at 7 - 50ppm
  • CAS Number: 14-78-6
  • LTEL - 200ppm
  • STEL - 400ppm
  • Risk Phrases: R11, 36, 66, 67
  • Safety Phrases: S16, 23, 29, 33

Ethyl Acetate (also known Ethyl Ethanoate, Acetic Acid, Ethyl Ester, Acetic Ether, Acetidin, Vinegar Naphtha, 1-Acetoxyethane). It is the organic compound with the formula CH3COOCH2CH3.


Ethyl Acetate has many uses, such as artificial fruit essences and aroma enhancers, artificial flavours for confectionery, ice cream and cakes.  This colorless liquid has a characteristic sweet smell, similar to pear drops.  Ethyl Acetate is the ester of ethanol and acetic acid; it is manufactured on a large scale for use as a solvent in many applications including decaffeinating tea and coffee, for varnishes and paints, nail varnish remover and for the manufacture of printing inks and perfumes.


Acid and alcohol combine during fermentation to produce esters, one of which is Ethyl Acetate which produces a slightly sweet, fruity, vinegary smell. (Ester is a class of organic compounds corresponding to the inorganic salts and formed from an organic acid and an alcohol).