Cautions First: Toluene First Aid, Correct Handling And Proper Storage Procedures

Published: 27th April 2009
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Toluene is a common compound widely used in many industries as a solvent in paints, lacquers, glues and explosives. Household items such as nail polish, inks, glues, and stain removers all contain toluene. Toluene is also present in cigarette smoke and car exhaust but it occurs as a natural component of crude oil and can be extracted from a native Colombian balsam tree.

Toluene reacts readily with air and can be broken down to its component substances and compounds easily. However, when accidental spills of toluene occur on the ground, there is a huge possibility that it will leach into the soil and into the groundwater.

It is highly flammable, reacts easily with strong oxidizers and acids (nitric and sulfuric) and can cause damage to some forms of rubber, plastics, and coatings. When inhaled, ingested or come into contact with significant levels of toluene, the patient can experience dizziness, nausea, headache, stomach spasms when swallowed and itching and redness when it comes in contact with the skin.

What should you do when an accident happens in the workplace?

Even with strict safety policies in place, there is always that small possibility for the inevitable, an accident. It is very important that workers know what to do when an accident occurs. It must be an inherent concept of the company's standard safety operating procedures that workers are given first aid seminar on toluene along with other hazardous chemicals.

When inhaled, patient must be moved to the open for fresh air or if there is a need for artificial respiration then by all means do so and call the doctor first thing. Do not induce vomiting when toluene is ingested and instead give the patient lots of water to drink. If the victim is throwing up, keep the head below hips to avoid aspiration into the lungs. For skin and eye contact, immediately flush affected area with plenty of water for 15 minutes. For all these instances, get medical attention right away.

What are the proper handling practices for toluene?

One of the first things you should do when handling toluene is to be properly fitted out with your personal protective equipment including protective goggles and gloves. A whole face mask is even recommended to avoid possible splashes.

As toluene is highly flammable although normally it is a stable compound, you should avoid the following conditions when handling toluene: sparks, electrostatic discharge, heat, open flames, and other ignition sources. It is also a confined space hazard, meaning that a leak in a closed area is very dangerous and there should be proper ventilation of your working space.

Never use or handle toluene along with incompatible materials unless absolutely necessary and when you do, make sure you carry out all the precautionary measures. Again, it cannot be helped but overemphasize the need for the workers to be properly trained at handling hazardous chemicals.

What should you do to ensure proper toluene storage conditions?

Toluene safety largely depends on how you store it. In ordinary circumstances, it is a fairly stable compound. However, when there are improper storage conditions there is a high risk for accidents. To decrease fire hazard, think about using an inert gas in the container or storage vessel for toluene.

Use only non-igniting ventilation systems, standard explosion-proof equipment, and safe electrical systems. Proper labeling of containers, chemicals and other items must also be practiced so that workers can easily identify the chemicals. Since toluene presents a confined space hazard, regular air monitoring should be in place to determine if there is proper ventilation.

Safety always comes first and employees must be empowered with the right knowledge and proper training to be able to deal with hazardous chemicals such as toluene with as few risks as possible.

Jo is an author and publisher for 'ReAgent Chemical Services Ltd' (, a well-known UK based chemical firm that produces, stocks and distributes a huge range of high quality chemical products as well as analytical laboratory chemicals, specialty chemicals and solid chemicals. If your business is looking for superior quality organic solvents for instance Toluene or has other industrial chemical needs for uses similar to chemical syntheses, analytical purposes and cleaning then have a look at ReAgent Chemical Services Ltd.

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