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Acetophenone: Hazards, Synthesis & Uses

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson covers a flavorful and fragrant chemical called acetophenone. You'll learn about some of the ways it's made, some of its many uses and potential health and safety hazards.

Acetophenone

Have you ever smelled or tasted roasted chicory root? If you have you can thank a chemical compound called acetophenone for the smell and flavor. Actually, flavor and acetophenone have something else in common. In this lesson you will learn what that acetophenone is, how it is made, what it may be used for, and some potential hazards associated with it.

Synthesis & Uses

Let's start with how it's made. Acetophenone is an organic compound, a simple aromatic ketone. It can be synthesized in various ways, including:

  • As a byproduct of the oxidation of cumene, also known as isopropylbenzene. The latter can be found naturally in some forms of cinnamon and even in ginger oil. Just don't get it confused with cumin, the spice.
  • It can also be made via the oxidation of another chemical known as ethylbenzene.

Once made, its uses are many. Recall how it's connected to flavors? It's not just about chicory root. Acetophenone is used as an ingredient in the manufacture of fruit flavors because it has been described as having a sweet taste. It can be found in all sorts of foods, beverages, and even tobacco products.

Besides taste, another sensation that's stimulated by acetophenone is our sense of smell. It is used in the manufacture of various fragrances, like those found in creams, lotions, soaps, detergent, and perfume. In its pure form, acetophenone has been described as having many different fragrances, everything from orange to jasmine to acacia.

In addition to delighting our senses, acetophenone has some more practical uses:

  • As a solvent and precursor for resins and plastics
  • In various agricultural chemicals
  • In greases, lubricants, and their additives
  • For the manufacture of a synthetic fiber called olefin
  • To manufacture various medications (One example is tolcapone, a drug branded as Tasmar, used in patients with Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's disease is a disorder that affects a person's movements as a result of the deterioration of the nervous system.)

Hazards

Despite all of its beneficial uses, acetophenone is not without hazards to human health and safety, mostly in its concentrated form. If acetophenone vapors come into contact with a person's skin, it may cause skin irritation. Similarly, if it contacts the eyes, injury to the cornea may occur and general irritation of the eyes can happen. (The cornea is the transparent part of the eye that covers your iris and pupil.)

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