Significant quantities of acetic acid are found in paints, adhesives and solvents. Common household vinegar is diluted acetic acid. Medical uses of diluted acetic acid formulas include bladder irrigation, wound irrigation and the treatment of ear infections. Pure acetic acid, known as glacial acetic acid, is widely available. It is used as a solvent, chemical reagent, fungicide and herbicide.
Acetic acid is produced organically through fermentation and synthetically from methanol. Glacial acetic acid is a clear, colorless liquid. However, it crystallizes at temperatures below 62 degrees Fahrenheit. Skin contact with pure acetic acid can cause redness, pain, blisters and burns. Eye contact can cause redness, pain and blindness. Breathing in fumes from acetic acid can bring on headaches, dizziness, sore throats, breathing problems and coughing. If swallowed, it causes nausea, vomiting and dental erosion.
Use of acetic acid in food, drugs and personal care products is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Environmental Protection Agency monitors its use in cleaning products and pesticides.The EPA reports that acetic acid is present in all living creatures. It is considered biodegradable because it easily breaks down into carbon dioxide and water. In 1996, it became the first molecule discovered in space using only radio interferometers.