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Product Safety Summary Methyl Ethyl Ketone
This Product Safety Summary document is
to provide product safety and end use information on this product. It is not
intended to provide emergency response, medical or treatment information, or to
provide a discussion of all safety and health information. This document is not
intended to replace the Material Safety Data Sheet.
1. Chemical Identity CAS No. 78-93-3
Methyl Ethyl Ketone
Ethyl Methyl Ketone
2. Product Uses
|MEK is a liquid
solvent used in surface coatings, adhesives, printing inks, chemical
intermediates, magnetic tapes and as dewaxing agents in lubricant base oil
production. MEK also is used as a solvent for fats, oils, waxes and resins.
It is a highly efficient and versatile solvent for surface coatings. Because
of its effectiveness as a solvent, MEK is especially valuable in formulating
high solids coatings, which help to reduce emissions from coating
operations. Consumer and commercial applications include:
• Lacquers for automotive/furniture finishes
• Coatings - epoxies, urethanes, cellulosics and vinyls
• Printing inks
• Adhesives for PVC pipes
• Resin thinners and clean-up operations
• Reaction/Extraction solvent for pharmaceuticals
3. Physical / Chemical Properties
MEK is a highly flammable material in both the liquid and vapor
forms, has a relatively high vapor pressure, and should be handled only with
adequate ventilation and in areas where ignition sources have been removed (e.g.
open flames, static electricity sources, unprotected light switches).
The flash point for MEK is 25ºF /-4ºC.
4. Health Information
MEK has been studied extensively and is generally recognized to
have low acute and chronic toxicity if ingested and/or breathed. High
concentrations (above 200 ppm) of MEK in the air can cause eye and lung
irritation in humans. High vapor concentrations may cause drowsiness and
dizziness and may cause central nervous system depression. MEK is not regarded
as a carcinogen, a mutagenic chemical or a concern for chronic reproductive or
neurotoxicity effects. MEK may increase the neurotoxicity of compounds such as
n-hexane and methyl n-butyl ketone.
MEK is naturally present at measurable levels in a wide variety of foods,
including meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and dairy products. MEK has been rated
as a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) substance by the
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. MEK also has been approved by
the FDA as a direct food additive for use as a flavoring agent. MEK has also
been recognized by the World Health Organization as a food additive/flavoring
agent that poses "no safety concern" because it is endogenous in humans as a
component of fatty acid and carbohydrate metabolism.
An extensive study was conducted on "reasonably anticipated
children’s exposures to MEK" from commonly found items such as the solvent in
wood stain and varnish, spray paint, hobby use adhesive and hobby use model
paint. Though most products that have been identified as containing MEK are not
intended for use by children, exposure typically would occur, if at all, through
the child’s presence in the room where the product is used. The conclusion of
the report was that reasonably anticipated children’s exposures to MEK from
intended uses of consumer products containing MEK, and from other expected
sources, are unlikely to pose significant health risks.
MEK in the Human Body
MEK is naturally present in humans as a result of its presence
in various foods. MEK can also be absorbed into the body via skin contact,
inhalation, or ingestion. The bulk of MEK taken into the body enters the general
metabolism and is eliminated as simple compounds such as carbon dioxide and
water within 24 hours.
5. Additional Hazard Information
If accidentally swallowed, small amounts of liquid may be
aspirated into the lungs during ingestion or from vomiting, this may cause
severe lung inflammation and lung edema (an accumulation of fluid in the lungs).
This is a medical emergency which must be immediately and properly treated.
6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Regulated Uses
Appropriate manufacturing and distribution practices are
employed to ensure the quality of MEK offered for use in either direct or
indirect additives to food according to applications and restrictions of the
7. Environmental Information
MEK is present in the environment from natural sources such as
European firs, junipers, cedars, cypress trees and ferns. MEK is not expected to
present a threat to the environment because of its low toxicity, high volatility
and complete solubility in water. MEK is rapidly degraded in water, soil, and
air. The intent, however, is to minimize any exposure to the environment from
manufacturing and use activities.
8. Exposure Potential
Based on the uses for MEK, the public could be exposed through:
• Workplace exposure – This
refers to potential exposure to MEK in a manufacturing facility or through
evaporation in various industrial applications. Generally, exposure to MEK
of personnel in manufacturing facilities is relatively low because the
process, storage and handling operations are enclosed. The US Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) is
200 parts per million (ppm) per an 8-hour work day.
• Consumer use of products containing MEK – This
category of exposure is highly variable depending on the products used and
the conditions under which they are used. Exposure of the majority of
consumers to commercial MEK sources is likely to be infrequent and of
short duration. Exposure could occur through the use of MEK in adhesives
or in lacquers and paints. The best way to prevent exposure to vapors is
to work in well-ventilated areas.
• Environmental releases – Chemical manufacturers
are committed to operating in an environmentally responsible manner everywhere
we do business. Our efforts are guided by in-depth scientific understanding of
the environmental impact of our operations, as well as by the social and
economic needs of the communities in which we operate. Industrial spills or
releases are rare; however a spill may pose a significant flammability issue.
Our operational improvement targets and plans are based on driving incidents
with real environmental impact to zero and delivering superior environmental
9. Manufacture of Product
• Capacity – In 2005,
publicly available sources reported global production for MEK reached 1,141
thousand metric tons (2.5 billion pounds). Global demand for MEK was 1,100
thousand metric tons (2.4 billion pounds).
• Process – Publicly available
sources report more than 85% of the U.S. MEK is produced from sec-butanol. The
alcohol is obtained in a two-step process starting from butenes. Although MEK is
not a hazardous air pollutant, it is a volatile organic compound (VOC),
considerable measures are taken to prevent its release to the atmosphere.
Processes and equipment for manufacture, transfer and storage are continuous and
10. Risk Management
When using MEK or products which contain MEK, make sure that there is
adequate ventilation. Always use appropriate chemical resistant gloves to
protect your hands and skin and always wear eye protection such as chemical
goggles. Do not eat, drink, or smoke where MEK is handled, processed, or stored.
Wash hands and skin following contact. If MEK gets into your eyes, rinse eyes
thoroughly for at least 15 minutes with tap water and seek medical attention.
11. Regulatory Information
Regulations may exist that govern the manufacture, sale,
transportation, use and/or disposal of MEK. These regulations may vary by city,
state, country or geographic region. Additional helpful information may be found
by consulting the relevant Material Safety Data Sheet.
12. Conclusion Statement
• Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK) is a widely
used industrial solvent and chemical intermediate.
• MEK is low in toxicity. It is naturally present in the
environment and is found in some dairy products (yogurt and cheese), fruits
• MEK does not cause adverse health or environmental effects
at levels typically found in the workplace or environment.
• MEK is highly flammable with a high vapor pressure; use
only with good ventilation; avoid all ignition sources.