Ethyl Ether - Journal of Chemical Education (ACS Publications)

Ethyl Ether. Jay A. Young. Chemical Safety Consultant, Silver Spring, MD 20904-3105. J. Chem. Educ. , 2008, 85 (9), p 1185. DOI: 10.1021/ed085p1185...
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  CLIP, Chemical Laboratory Information Profile “Only when you know the hazards, can you take the necessary precautionary measures.”

Ethyl Ether


CAS No.: 60-29-7

Synonyms: Diethyl ether, ethoxyethane, 1,1′-oxybisethane

Physical Properties

Colorless volatile, peroxide-forming, extremely flammable liquid. Vapor pressure at 20 °C: 454 Torr Melting point: −116 °C Boiling point: 35 °C

Exposure Limits


400 ppm 400 ppm 500 ppm

Hazardous Characteristics

Overall toxicity 2

Flamma- bility 4

Destructive to skin/eye 2

Absorbed through skin? No

Sensi- tizer? No

Self- reactive? No

Incompatible with: Oxidizing agents, air, oxygen*

0: None (or very low); 1: Slight; 2: Moderate; 3: High; 4: Severe. *Reactivity Hazards

Mixtures of ethyl ether with many oxidizing agents explode and/or catch fire. When exposed to air or oxygen, ethyl ether rapidly forms explosively unstable ethyl ether hydroperoxide and polymeric 1-oxyperoxide unless it contains an inhibitor (inhibitors have a limited life). See Bretherick’s Handbook of R ­ eactive Chemical Hazards for details and for other incompatibilities.

Cited as known to be or reasonably anticipated to be carcinogenic in NTP-11?   No

Identified as a reproductive toxin in Frazier and Hage, Reproductive Hazards of the Workplace? No

Typical symptoms of acute exposures:

On the skin, inflammation, frostbite. If inhaled, headache, drowsiness, dizziness, unconsciousness. In the eyes, inflammation. If ingested, vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness. Spontaneous or induced vomiting can cause chemical pneumonitis.

Principal target organ(s) or system(s):

Central nervous system.

Storage Requirements

Store with other poisonous flammables, combustibles in a cool, dry, well-ventilated and locked location, away from ignition sources and separated from oxidizing agents. NOTE: Reputable suppliers of ethyl ether specify a “use by” date on their container labels because ethyl ether is subject to peroxide formation while it is stored. Always purchase ethyl ether only from reputable suppliers and take the necessary administrative steps to insure that every ether container is either empty or the contents properly disposed of before the “use by” date.

Additional Remarks

At ordinary temperatures, the vapor pressure of ethyl ether is approximately 595,000 ppm and therefore greatly exceeds the limits established by OSHA and ACGIH. Accordingly, users will be likely to be over-exposed to the vapors of this compound unless appropriate precautions are rigidly maintained; see the MSDS for details. When poured, pumped, stirred, or otherwise agitated, ethyl ether develops a static charge that can be sufficient to ignite the vapor–air mixture. The vapor is more dense than air and is explosive when mixed with air; the vapor will travel long distances and collect in low-lying and/or poorly ventilated locations. Chemical pneumonitis is a pneumonia-like illness caused by aspiration of droplets of aqueous-immiscible liquid into the respiratory tract. Aspiration can occur when the aqueous-immiscible liquid is swallowed and/or when it is vomited—after it has been swallowed.



This Chemical Laboratory Information Profile is not a Material Safety Data Sheet. It is a brief summary for teachers and their students that describes some of the hazards of this chemical as it is typically used in laboratories. On the basis of your knowledge of these hazards and before using or handling this chemical, you need to select the precautions and first-aid procedures to be followed. For that information as well as for other useful information, refer to Material Safety Data Sheets, container labels, and references in the scientific literature that pertain to this chemical. Reproductive toxins

Some substances that in fact are reproductive toxins are not yet recognized as such. For the best readily available and up-to-date information, refer to “DART/ETIC”. See the TOXNET home page at Note that some of the data in DART/ETIC have not been peer-reviewed. See also Frazier, Linda M.; Hage, Marvin L. Reproductive Hazards of the Workplace; Wiley: New York, 1998; and Shepard, T. H. Catalog of Teratogenic Agents, 9th ed.; Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, MD, 1998. Abbreviations

ACGIH TLV—American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists–Threshold Limit Value. C—Ceiling. CAS—Chemical Abstracts Service. mg/m3—milligrams per cubic meter. NA—Not applicable. NE—Not established. NI—No information. NTP‑11—­ National Toxicology Program, Eleventh Annual Report on Carcinogens. OSHA PEL—Occupational Safety and Health Administration– Permissible Exposure Limit. ppm—parts per million. STEL/C—Short-term exposure limit and ceiling. Prepared by: Jay A. Young

Date of preparation: June 28, 2008

© Division of Chemical Education  •  •  Vol. 85  No. 9  September 2008  •  Journal of Chemical Education