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Glossary - Butanone Butanone - molecular formula CH3C(O)CH2CH3

Also known as methyl ethyl ketone or MEK, is an organic compound with the formula CH3C(O)CH2CH3 (pictured at right).  This colourless liquid ketone has a sharp, sweet odour reminiscent of butterscotch and acetone.

It is produced industrially on a large scale, and also occurs in trace amounts in nature Butanone is an irritant, but serious health effects in animals have been seen only at very high levels.  When inhaled, these effects included birth defects.  Butanone is listed as a Table II precursor under the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

On December 19, 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency removed butanone from the list of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).  After technical review and consideration of public comments, EPA concluded that potential exposures to butanone emitted from industrial processes may not reasonably be anticipated to cause human health or environmental problems.  Emissions of butanone will continue to be regulated as a volatile organic compound because of its contribution to the formation of tropospheric (ground-level) ozone.


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