The acute toxicity of peracetic acid is low. However, peracids are extremely irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. Skin or eye contact with the 40% solution in acetic acid can cause serious burns. Inhalation of high concentrations of mists of peracetic acid solutions can lead to burning sensations, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Peracetic acid has not been found to be carcinogenic or to show reproductive or developmental toxicity in humans. There is some evidence that this compound is a weak carcinogen from animal studies (mice).
Data on other peracids suggest peracetic acid may show the worst chronic and acute toxicity of this class of compounds. Other commonly available peracids, such as perbenzoic acid and m-chloroperbenzoic acid (MCPBA) are less toxic, less volatile, and more easily handled than the parent substance.