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Vinyl acetate: Understanding the risk of specific chemicals of interest

General Information

Vinyl acetate finds industrial uses in the production of vinyl acetate polymeric substances.

It is a colorless liquid with a pleasant fruity odor that on visible light exposure polymerizes to a transparent solid.

Other names for vinyl acetate are:

  • 1-Acetoxyethylene
  • Acetic acid ethenyl ester
  • Ethenyl ethanoate
  • Vinyl ethanoate

It is considered a Class 1B Flammable Liquid.

Conversion: 1 ppm = 3.52 mg/m3.

Incompatibilities and reactivities include: acids, bases, silica gel, alumina, oxidizers, azo compounds, and ozone.

Eye/Skin Irritant Potential

Vinyl acetate is an irritant of the eyes and skin, particularly with wet contaminated clothing soaked with the substance. Severe irritation and blistering of the skin may occur in such conditions leading to chemical injuries. Direct liquid eye contact or even exposure to vapor can result in eye irritation.

In case of ocular exposure, decontamination with eyewash is highly recommended in order to limit the severity of the chemical burn. In case of cutaneous exposure, prolonged washing is recommended.

Vinyl acetate is also highly irritant to the respiratory tract.

Chronic Effects / Carcinogenicity / Reproductive, Hazards

Normal volunteers exposed to airborne concentrations between 20 ppm for 4 hours or 72 ppm for 30 minutes experienced eye and throat irritation, and all agreed that they could not work in an airborne concentration of 72 ppm for 8 hours.

Similar effects have been reported in experimental animals.

Cancer has been associated with vinyl acetate long-term exposure in drinking water in rats, but occupational studies have not found an excess incidence of lungs cancer in human workers. The IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) determined that there is limited evidence of carcinogenesis in experimental animals and inadequate evidence in humans.

Regulatory/Advisories Issues

In the United States, there is no OSHA (US Occupational Health and Safety Administration) PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit) for vinyl acetate. The NIOSH (US National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety) recommends a Ceiling Limit of 4 ppm (15 mg/m3) for 15 minutes. The ACGIH (American Congress of Governmental Hygienists) recommends a threshold limit value time-weighted average of 10 ppm (35 mg/m3) with an STEL (Short-Term Exposure Limit) of 15 ppm (53 mg/m3) and an A3-confirmed animal carcinogen with unknown relevance to humans.

In France, the STEL is of 10 ppm (35.2 mg/m3) and the threshold limit time-weighted average is of 5 ppm (17.6 mg/m3).

Adverse reproductive effects have been studied in rats, but no significant effects were found.

References Consulted

Hathaway GH, Proctor NH (eds). Vinyl acetate, in: Proctor and Hughes’ Chemical Hazards of the Workplace, 5th ed. Wiley Interscience, Hoboken, NJ, 2004, pp. 728-730.
Luttrell WE. Vinyl acetate. J Chem Health Safety 2013, pp. 35-37.
NIOSH: Vinyl acetate, in: NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2005-149, Cincinnati, OH, USA, 2007, p. 329.
INRS: Fiche toxicologique, Acétate de Vinyle, edition 2013

Alan H. Hall, M.D. President and Chief Medical Toxicologist
Toxicology Consulting and Medical Translating Services, Inc.
Clinical Assistant Professor
Colorado School of Public Health
University of Colorado-Denver
Denver, Colorado, USA