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March 2011 Newsletter



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Environmental Sources

2-Butanone is a manufactured chemical, an unwanted by product of some industrial processes and is also present in the environment from natural sources. It is a colourless liquid with a sharp, fragrant, mint or acetone-like odour. It is also known as methyl ethyl ketone (MEK). 2-Butanone is produced in large quantities. Nearly half of its use is in paints and other coatings because it will quickly evaporate into the air and it dissolves many substances. It is also used in glues and as a cleaning agent. 2-Butanone occurs as a natural product. It is made by some trees and found in some fruits and vegetables in small amounts. It is also released to the air from car and truck exhausts as well as from oil refineries.

Human Health effects

The known health effects to people from exposure to 2-butanone are irritation of the nose, throat, skin, and eyes. No one has died from breathing 2-butanone alone. If 2-butanone is breathed along with other chemicals that damage health, it can increase the amount of damage that occurs.

Exposure limits

- The US EPA requires that discharges or spills into the environment of 5,000 pounds of more of 2-butanone be reported.

- The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set an occupational exposure limit of 200 parts of 2-butanone per million parts of workplace air (200 ppm) for an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek.

- The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have established the same guidelines as OSHA for the workplace.

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