An organic compound that is both highly flammable and highly volatile, ether anhydrous (dry ether) is a commonly used solvent in laboratories, and is also used in in various types of engines as a starter fluid. Historically, ether was used as a general anesthetic until more stable and far less flammable drugs became available. It also has a historical use as a recreational drug due to its ability to cause intoxication. Once referred to as sweet oil of vitriol, ether was originally produced by the distillation of ethanol and sulfuric acid. Industrially, anhydrous ether is used in the production of plastics such as cellulose acetate. Even when anhydrous, ether is still highly flammable and volatile, and extreme care should be taken when using or transporting this volatile material. Vapors from compounds containing ether are nearly as flammable as the substance itself, making strong safety and handling protocols a must both in the lab and in industrial settings.
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