Ethanol is a versatile substance. It is easily miscible with water and a wide range of other liquids and has excellent solvent properties with respect to many substances. Thanks to its relatively low toxicity, the admissible MAK values (maximum workplace concentrations in ml/m3) are two and a half times higher than those of isopropanol, methanol and methyl ethyl ketone and ten times higher than those of toluene.
In contrast to other solvents, ethanol generally presents no risk to water and is readily biodegradable. On the other hand, toluene and other aromatic solvents must not be allowed to contaminate the ground or water systems. Ethanol is also an ideal disinfectant (bactericidal and fungicidal) in the concentration range of 70–90% by vol.
During biodegradation and combustion of ethanol, only carbon dioxide (CO2) and water, two natural substances, are formed. Ethanol of agricultural origin, as sold by alcosuisse (with the exception of a small amount of synthetic ethanol for special applications), can be designated as CO2-neutral as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is drawn out of the atmosphere during the growth of the plant.
As a volatile organic compound (VOC), ethanol is also only of minor significance as the source of ozone at ground level – faring considerably better than methyl ethyl ketone or toluene – and qualifies under national legislation as "less significant".
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