Acetaldehyde is an irritant of the skin, eyes, mucous membranes, throat and respiratory tract. Symptoms of exposure to this compound include nausea, vomiting, headache, dermatitis and pulmonary oedema (fluid in the lungs). These effects may be delayed. It has a general narcotic action and large doses cause death by respiratory paralysis. It may also cause drowsiness, delirium, hallucinations and loss of intelligence. Exposure may also cause slow mental response, severe damage to the mouth, throat and stomach; accumulation of fluid in the lungs, chronic respiratory disease, kidney and liver damage, throat irritation, dizziness, reddening and swelling of the skin and sensitisation. It may cause photophobia. Liquid splashed in the eyes may cause a burning sensation, lacrimation and blurred vision. It may also cause transient conjunctivitis.
Acetaldehyde is a substance which may reasonably be anticipated to be a carcinogen.
Entering the body
Exposure to acetaldehyde is primarily through breathing though skin absorption and ingestion are also possible.
Principal human exposure will be from inhalation of ambient air from urban areas or near sources of combustion. The greatest potential for exposure is to workers in the organic chemicals industry, with some exposure in fabricated rubber products and biological products industries. Potential exposure exists for personnel involved in the manufacturing or use of industrial organic chemicals, dyes, fabricated rubber, plastics, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, fuels, drugs, explosives, lacquers and varnishes, photographic chemicals, pesticides, food additives, leather goods, and mirrors. Acetaldehyde is a potential exposure problem for automobile and diesel mechanics, petrol station attendants, and agricultural and food industry personnel, as well as personnel in coffee-roasting operations, lithographic coatings, automobile spray operations, and fat-rendering plants. In general, concentrations are higher indoors than outdoors due, in part, to the abundance of combustion sources such as cigarettes and fireplaces. Acetaldehyde can be emitted from cooking hamburgers, and from some building materials such as rigid polyurethane foams, and some consumer products such as adhesives, coatings, lubricants, inks, and nail polish remover. Other potential sources of indoor acetaldehyde concentrations are the infiltration of vehicle exhaust and the evaporation of acetaldehyde from certain foods.
- Maximum 8 hour time weighted average (TWA) exposure should not exceed: 100 ppm (180 mg/m3);
- Maximum short term exposure limit (STEL): 150 ppm (270 mg/m3)
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