Acetic Anhydride

Acetic anhydride (108-24-7)

Acetic anhydride (CAS Reg. no. 108-24-7) is a colorless liquid with a distinct sharp color (Science, 2011).  Its molecular formula is C5H6O3 and has a molecular weight of 102.09. It is used in the manufacture of plastics, dyes, perfumes, explosives and pharmaceutical drugs such as aspirin (ChemViP, 2011).

1.0 Hazardous Effects of Acetic Anhydride

Acetic anhydride is a very corrosive chemical substance and its exposure to human beings causes severe skin, eye and respiratory track irritation (OSHA, 2011). The irritation effects of the chemical to the respiratory system significantly increase its potential for occupational asthma. Acetic anhydride is readily hydrolyzed to acetic acid. As such, local toxicity occurs at the point of contact with chemical, but not systemic toxicity.

2.0 Effects of Acetic Anhydride on the Human Body

Acetic anhydride, either in vapor or liquid form, causes severe irritation to the skin, eyes, or any point of contact (OSHA, 2011). When inhaled, the chemical can extensively irritate nose, mouth and throat for longer period of time compared to other chemical substances. High concentration of acetic anhydride can cause lung damage accompanied by coughing and sometimes shortness of breath.

Secondly, it causes corneal scarring, permanent or temporary visual impairment, and structural damage to the iris when exposed to the eye (New Jersey Department of Health And Senior Services, 2011). In addition, Skin allergy is strongly associated with acetic anhydride. In circumstances where skin allergy develops, lower future exposure to the chemical results to itching and development of skin rashes. Based on the information from various health departments, carcinogenic property of the acetic anhydride or its negative effects on human reproduction has not been established (New Jersey Department of Health And Senior Services, 2011).

3.0 Routes of Entry to the Body

Molecules of Acetic anhydride gain entry into the body in different ways. The main routes of entry to the body are the skin and respiratory organs; it can be inhaled (breathed in) through the nose, ingested, and sometimes absorbed through the skin (SIDS, 2011). It is most important to note that its entry to the body through the respiratory and digestive tracts is well pronounced due to highly sensitive of the thin epithelial membrane lining of the two systems.

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4.0 Sources of Exposure

The main sources of exposure of chemical are acetic anhydride producing plants, manufacturing industries and various industrial processes. Exposure of acetic anhydride from these sources is mainly through production and commercial applications.  Production releases are primarily from chemical manufacturing plants such as Edmonton in Canada which releases approximately 30kg per day to the atmosphere (SIDS, 2011). Another source of exposure is release of from use. This includes release from the production of cellulose acetate, where acetic anhydride is an intermediate; manufacture of acetyl chloride, chloroacetic acid, vinyl acetate, and triacetate fibers; processing off explosives, dyes, flavorings, and other areas where acetic anhydride is used as a chemical agent (SIDS, 2011). 

5.0 Control measures

There are various measures that can be used to safely control acetic anhydride in the workplace. These can be categorized into two groups: pre-contact controls and post-contact controls. Pre contact controls include appropriate policies and procedures, administration training, and engineering methods among others.

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Good work practices, appropriate policies and procedure are significant in reducing hazardous exposures. Such practices include avoiding contaminated clothes by workers; provision of wash fountains and emergency shower facilities in immediate work areas for emergency purposes; and avoiding eating, smoking or drinking in areas where acetic anhydride is processed, stored or handled (OSHA, 2011). Workers and employers should be properly educated on appropriate precautions and safety measures that should be taken in case of exposure to acetic anhydride besides other work-related hazards. Before using acetic anhydride, proper training on handling and storage of the chemical is necessary.

One of the most significant engineering controls is the total enclosure of chemical operations and provision of local exhaust ventilation at the sites or points of chemical release (OSHA, 2011). Isolation of some operations can also reduce the level of exposure. In addition, use of respiratory and protective devices is important. Similarly, special controls should also be readily available in places of high toxic chemicals.

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Just like workplace controls and practices, personal protective equipments are equally crucial particularly in jobs restricted within confined spaces, outside jobs, occasional jobs or general jobs carried out during the installation processes of workplace controls (New Jersey Department of Health And Senior Services, 2011). Protective equipment include acid resistant clothing, gloves, indirect vent, splash and impact resistant goggles (for eye protection), face shield, face piece respirators and contact lenses

Post contact measures include immediate washing or taking shower to eliminate the chemical in case of skin contact. Additionally, at the end of the work shifts the workers should wash different parts of the body that may have been in contact with acetic anhydride (OSHA, 2011). If an inhalation accident occurs, the victim should be moved to places with fresh air to prevent further exposure. In case of ingestion, inducing vomiting should be avoided as the chemical is very corrosive to the body tissues. For this matter, the victim should be given several glasses of water or milk, followed by milk of magnesia (New Jersey Department of Health And Senior Services, 2011). Medical evaluation remains an important post contact measure. People exposed to the chemical should visit medical personnel in the nearest health centers for further treatment. Medical evaluation should not only be done when exposure to acetic anhydride is suspected but also before job placements, spontaneously during employment period, and at the time of termination or transfer (OSHA, 2011).

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