Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Demystifying household chemicals: Acetic acid

Some bottles of nail polish contain acetic acid
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos
"Demystifying household chemicals" is a series that aims to inform people on the types of chemicals found in and around our homes. The series will be featured every Wednesday where a different chemical, and its everyday uses, will be discussed.

What is the first thing you think about when you hear the words: acetic acid

Sounds familiar, right?

Well, acetic acid is found in many different food products and some drinks as well. Small concentrations of this organic compound can be found in wine, cheese and orange juice, but the most common product we think of when we think of acetic acid is vinegar. Many condiments contain a little bit of vinegar, such as prepared mustard, prepared salad dressings and ketchup.

Acetic acid (also called ethanoic acid, ethylic acid, or methane carboxylic acid), is a main component of vinegar. This acid is what makes vinegar smell and taste so distinctive. It is a colorless liquid that is used in many commercial products that, in large quantities, can be dangerous.

Vinegar contains about five percent acetic acid and in that concentration, is considered safe. Once concentrations reach 10 percent, acetic acid becomes an irritant. At 25 percent concentration, it becomes corrosive and at 90 percent concentration, becomes flammable and volatile. 

Close contact to highly concentrated acetic acid can result in blindness and inhalation can cause respiratory problems. If your skin comes into contact with it, burns and blisters can result, though not necessarily right away. Ingestion can cause abdominal pains, the erosion of your teeth enamel, and even kidney failure in extreme cases.
Acetic acid is used in many laboratories and industrial industries. Large quantities are used for making:
  • Pesticides
  • Rubber
  • Plastics
  • Dyes
 Smaller concentrations can be found in the following household products:
  • Nail polish
  • Hair spray
  • Glass and surface cleaner
  • Shaving cream (men’s and women’s)
  • Female personal cleansing products
  • Moisturizers
For more information on these products and how safe they are, consult the GoodGuide.

Did any of this information surprise you? Share your questions, concerns or stories with us.

Protecting your home

In order to protect your loved ones from undue exposure to acetic acid, first try to reduce the number of products containing high percentages of the compound. Purchase products that contain 10 percent or less acetic acid. For products containing more than that, make efforts to use them in aerated spaces.

Activated carbon adsorbs gases, chemicals
and odors, thereby improving
your indoor air quality
Using glass cleaners containing acetic acid and water may not be unhealthy, but using an aerosol hair spray in enclosed spaces is potentially toxic because it contains many other harmful chemicals. 

To keep your home as free from detrimental chemicals as possible, invest in an air purifier that will help rid the air of toxic chemicals found in nail polish, pesticides and hair sprays.

AllerAir’s activated carbon filters adsorb gases, odors and chemicals and help improve your indoor air quality.

For more information on our air purifiers, contact AllerAir today.

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