The following information has been extracted from our CHEMINFO database, which also contains hazard control and regulatory information. [More about...] [Sample Record]

Access the complete CHEMINFO database by contacting CCOHS Client Services.


CHEMINFO Record Number: 797
CCOHS Chemical Name: Methyl lactate

1-Hydroxyethanecarboxylic acid, methyl ester
2-Hydroxypropanoic acid, methyl ester
2-Hydroxypropionic acid, methyl ester
Lactic acid, methyl ester
Methyl alpha-hydroxypropionate
Lactate de methyle

CAS Registry Number: 547-64-8
RTECS Number(s): OD5670000
EU EINECS/ELINCS Number: 208-930-0
Chemical Family: Saturated aliphatic hydroxy carboxylic acid ester / saturated aliphatic hydroxy monocarboxylic acid ester / hydroxyalkanoic acid ester / alkyl hydroxyalkanoate / methyl ester / lactate
Molecular Formula: C4-H8-O3
Structural Formula: CH3-CH(OH)-C(=O)-O-CH3


Appearance and Odour:
Colourless, transparent liquid (3)

Odour Threshold:
Not available

Warning Properties:
Information not available for evaluation

Methyl lactate can exist in two chemical forms (isomers), methyl D-lactate, methyl L-lactate. In general, the commercial product is a mixture of the two forms, methyl DL-lactate.

Uses and Occurrences:
Methyl lactate is used as a solvent for cellulose acetate, nitrocellulose, cellulose acetobutyrate and cellulose acetopropionate; as a solvent for varnishes, lacquers and stains; as a captive intermediate for lactic acid purification; and as a chemical intermediate for acetyl, amide, higher ester derivatives, and carbetamide.(1,4,5)


Colourless, transparent liquid. COMBUSTIBLE LIQUID AND VAPOUR. Probably essentially non-toxic following short-term exposure.


Effects of Short-Term (Acute) Exposure

The potential health effects of methyl lactate are unknown. Mild irritation of the nose and throat may occur. An unconfirmed animal toxicity value suggests that inhalation toxicity is low.

Skin Contact:
There is no specific information available for methyl lactate. A closely related lactate (ethyl lactate) was not irritating in animal studies.

Eye Contact:
There is no human information available. Methyl lactate was not irritating in a limited animal study.

There is no human information available. An animal toxicity value suggests that methyl lactate is not harmful following ingestion. Ingestion is not a typical route of occupational exposure.

Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure

There is no information available on the potential health effects of long- term exposure to methyl lactate.


There is no human or animal information available.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has not evaluated the carcinogenicity of this chemical.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has no listing for this chemical.

The US National Toxicology Program (NTP) has not listed this chemical in its report on carcinogens.

Teratogenicity and Embryotoxicity:
There is no human or animal information available.

Reproductive Toxicity:
There is no human or animal information available.

There is no information available.

Toxicologically Synergistic Materials:
There is no information available.

Potential for Accumulation:
There is no specific information available for methyl lactate. Based on comparison to ethyl lactate, a closely related chemical, and other methyl esters, it may be metabolized to lactic acid and methanol. Methanol has significant health effects and its toxicity should be considered if exposure occurs. L(+)-Lactic acid is a normal metabolic intermediate produced by most mammalian cells.


No health effects expected. If symptoms are experienced, remove source of contamination and have victim move to fresh air. If symptoms persist, obtain medical advice.

Skin Contact:
If irritation occurs, flush with lukewarm, gently flowing water for 5 minutes or until the chemical is removed. If irritation persists, obtain medical advice. Completely decontaminate clothing, shoes and leather goods before re-use.

Eye Contact:
If irritation occurs, flush the contaminated eye(s) with lukewarm, gently flowing water for 5 minutes or until the chemical is removed. If irritation persist, obtain medical advice.

If irritation or discomfort occur, obtain medical advice immediately.

First Aid Comments:
All first aid procedures should be periodically reviewed by a doctor familiar with the material and its conditions of use in the workplace.

Note to Physicians:
Methyl lactate may be metabolized to methanol. Methanol toxicity should be considered when treating a patient exposed to methyl lactate.


Flash Point:
49 deg C (121 deg F) (closed cup) (3); 55 deg C (131 deg F) (closed cup) (1,7)

Lower Flammable (Explosive) Limit (LFL/LEL):
2.2% at 100 deg C (6)

Upper Flammable (Explosive) Limit (UFL/UEL):
Not available

Autoignition (Ignition) Temperature:
385 deg C (725 deg F) (6)

Sensitivity to Mechanical Impact:
Not sensitive. Stable compound.

Sensitivity to Static Charge:
No specific information is available for methyl lactate. It will probably not accumulate static charge, since hydroxy esters have high electrical conductivities.

Combustion and Thermal Decomposition Products:
Incomplete combustion may produce irritating fumes and acrid smoke.

Fire Hazard Summary:
Combustible liquid. Can form explosive mixtures with air at, or above, 49 deg C. During a fire irritating/toxic gases may be formed. Closed containers may rupture violently or explode and suddenly release large amounts of product when exposed to fire or excessive heat for a sufficient period of time.

Extinguishing Media:
Carbon dioxide, dry chemical powder, alcohol foam, polymer foam, or water spray or fog.(8) Alcohol-resistant fire-fighting foam is recommended for use on all water-soluble liquids, or polar-type solvents.

Fire Fighting Instructions:
Evacuate area and fight fire from a safe distance or protected location. Approach fire from upwind to avoid hazardous and toxic decomposition products.
If possible, isolate materials not yet involved in the fire, and move containers from fire area if this can be done without risk, and protect personnel. Otherwise, fire-exposed containers or tanks should be cooled by application of hose streams. Application should begin as soon as possible and should concentrate on any unwetted portions of the container. Cool containers from the side until well after the fire is out. If the above cooling procedure is not possible, use unmanned monitor nozzles and immediately evacuate the area.
If a leak or spill has not ignited, use water spray in large quantities to disperse the vapours and to protect personnel attempting to stop a leak. Water spray can be used to dilute spills to nonflammable mixtures and flush spills away from ignition sources. Solid streams of water may be ineffective and spread material.
For a massive fire in a large area, use unmanned hose holder or monitor nozzles; if this is not possible withdraw from fire area and allow fire to burn. Stay away from ends of tanks, but be aware that flying material from ruptured tanks may travel in any direction. Withdraw immediately in case of rising sound from venting safety device or any discolouration of tank due to fire.
Firefighters may enter the area if positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus (MSHA/NIOSH approved or equivalent) and full Bunker Gear is worn.


NFPA - Health: 1 - Exposure would cause significant irritation, but only minor residual injury.
NFPA - Flammability: 2 - Must be moderately heated or exposed to relatively high ambient temperatures before ignition can occur.
NFPA - Instability: 0 - Normally stable, even under fire conditions, and not reactive with water.


Molecular Weight: 104.10

Conversion Factor:
1 ppm = 4.249 mg/m3; 1 mg/m3 = 0.235 ppm at 25 deg C (calculated)

Physical State: Liquid
Melting Point: -66 deg C (-86.8 deg F) (1,4,9)
Boiling Point: 144-145 deg C (291-293 deg F) (1,3,5,9)
Relative Density (Specific Gravity): 1.093 (DL); 1.0895 (L) at 20 deg C; 1.0857 (D) at 25 deg C (water = 1) (3)
Solubility in Water: Soluble in all proportions (decomposes) (3,4,5)
Solubility in Other Liquids: Soluble in ethanol and diethyl ether (3,9)
Coefficient of Oil/Water Distribution (Partition Coefficient): Log P(oct) = -0.26 (calculated) (10)
pH Value: Not available
Viscosity-Dynamic: 2.94 mPa.s (2.94 centipoise) at 20 deg C (11)
Viscosity-Kinematic: 2.70 mm2/s (2.70 centistokes) at 20 deg C (calculated)
Vapour Density: 3.6 (air = 1) (6)
Vapour Pressure: 0.30 kPa (2.25 mm Hg) at 20 deg C (1,7)
Saturation Vapour Concentration: 2961 ppm (0.296%) at 20 deg C (calculated)
Evaporation Rate: Not available
Critical Temperature: Not available


Normally stable. Decomposes in water.

Hazardous Polymerization:
Not available

Incompatibility - Materials to Avoid:

NOTE: Chemical reactions that could result in a hazardous situation (e.g. generation of flammable or toxic chemicals, fire or detonation) are listed here. Many of these reactions can be done safely if specific control measures (e.g. cooling of the reaction) are in place. Although not intended to be complete, an overview of important reactions involving common chemicals is provided to assist in the development of safe work practices.

STRONG OXIDIZING AGENTS (e.g. hydrogen peroxide, potassium permanganate, or chromates) - may react vigorously or violently, with risk of fire and explosion.(8)
STRONG ACIDS (e.g. sulfuric or nitric acids) or BASES (e.g. sodium or potassium hydroxide) - decomposition (hydrolysis) can occur, releasing heat. The reaction may be vigorous or violent.(8)

Hazardous Decomposition Products:
Lactic acid

Conditions to Avoid:
Heat, open flames

Corrosivity to Metals:
Not corrosive to steel, silicon cast iron, gray cast iron or nickel cast iron.(12)


LC50 (rat): Greater than 5000 mg/m3 (4-hour exposure) (1 citing unpublished information)

LD50 (oral, rat): Greater than 2000 mg/kg (1 citing unpublished information)

Eye Irritation:

In a limited study, application of 10 microLitres was not irritating to guinea pigs.(2)


Selected Bibliography:
(1) Criteria Group for Occupational Standards, National Institute for Working Life. Consensus report for lactates. In: Scientific Basis for Swedish Occupational Standards XVI. Edited by P. Lundberg. Arbete Och Halsa. Vol. 19 (1995). p. 68-73
(2) Sanderson, D.M. A note on glycerol formal as a solvent in toxicity testing. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Vol. 11 (1959). p. 150-156
(3) Final report on the safety assessment of glycolic acid, ammonium, calcium, potassium, and sodium glycolates, methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butyl glycolates, and lactic acid, ammonium, calcium, potassium, sodium, and TEA- lactates, methyl, ethyl, isopropyl, and butyl lactates, and lauryl, myristyl, and cetyl lactates. International Journal of Toxicology. Thirty-fourth report of the Cosmetic Review Expert Panel. Vol. 17, suppl. 1 (1998). p. 1-241
(4) HSDB database record for methyl lactate. Last revision date: 98/03/10
(5) Chahal, S.P. Lactic acid. In: Ullmann's encyclopedia of industrial chemistry. 5th completely revised edition. Volume A 15. VCH Verlagsgesellschaft, 1990. p. 97-105
(6) Fire protection guide to hazardous materials. 13th ed. Edited by A.B. Spencer, et al. National Fire Protection Association, 2002. NFPA 325
(7) Stoye, D., et al. Solvents. In: Ullman's encyclopedia of industrial chemistry. 5th revised edition. Vol. A 24. VCH Verlagsgesellschaft, 1993. p. 448-454, 481
(8) The Sigma-Aldrich library of chemical safety data. Edition II. Volume 2. Sigma-Aldrich Corporation, 1988. p. 2374A,B
(9) Dean, J.A. Lange's handbook of chemistry. 14th edition. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1992. p. 1.256
(10) Leo, A., et al. Partition coefficients and their uses. Chemical Reviews. Vol. 17, no. 6 (December, 1971). p. 564
(11) Van Ness, J.H. Hydroxy carboxylic acids: lactic acid: esters. In: Kirk- Othmer encyclopedia of chemical technology. 3rd Edition. Volume 13. John Wiley and Sons, 1981. p. 89
(12) Corrosion data survey: metals section. 6th edition. National Association of Corrosion Engineers, 1985. p. 148-1
(13) European Communities. Commission Directive 98/98/EC. December 15, 1998

Information on chemicals reviewed in the CHEMINFO database is drawn from a number of publicly available sources. A list of general references used to compile CHEMINFO records is available in the database Help.

Review/Preparation Date: 2000-04-04

Revision Indicators:
Bibliography 2003-04-18
WHMIS disclosure list 2003-07-13

©2007 Canadian  Centre  for  Occupational  Health  &  Safety  E-mail:  Fax: (905) 572-2206  Phone: (905) 572-2981  
Mail:  250  Main  Street  East,  Hamilton  Ontario  L8N  1H6