Ethanol is a colourless, volatile liquid with a highly flammable vapour. It has a burning taste and a mild pleasant odour, reportedly detectable by smell at around 84 ppm.
Ethyl alcohol evaporates rapidly at room temperature (even when fairly diluted with water), readily forming flammable and explosive mixtures in air (it has a low flash point of 12°C and an ignition temperature of 400°C). A significant spill can spread along the ground, collecting in low or confined areas (sewers, basements, tanks etc.) and vapours may travel to source of ignition and flash back.
In addition to the well-known intoxicant effect if ingested or inhaled, its vapour is irritating to the eyes and upper respiratory tract.
Once absorbed into the blood stream it is rapidly metabolised to carbon dioxide and water.
Ethyl alcohol is produced naturally by the fermentation of sugars in fruits, grain and vegetables due to the action of enzymes in yeast.
It is used in alcoholic beverages, as an industrial solvent and as a raw material in the synthesis of other organic chemicals.