Human Health Dangers of Prolonged Exposure To Toluene

Published: 22nd April 2009
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Toluene is a very important solvent in many industries. However, it must be handled with proper care and the right storage practiced because it can be pretty volatile and when mishandled, toluene can become trinitrotoluene which is very dangerous and explosive.

You may be exposed to toluene through inhaling contaminated air in your workplace or breathing in car exhaust fumes, working with kerosene, gasoline, paints, and lacquers, drinking contaminated water, contact with contaminated soil, and living near unsupervised hazardous wastes sites dealing with toluene and similar products.

Any substance is considered toxic or hazardous when it enters or may enter the environment and have direct and long term effects on the environment, or when it poses a danger to the environment on which human life is dependent, or when it creates an immediate threat to human life or health.

Toluene inhalation poses the greatest health hazard to the human central nervous system (CNS). Headache and slight sleepiness has been reported when individuals were exposed to about 50 ppm (parts per million) while reports of irritation of the nose, throat and respiratory tract are not unusual to those exposed to between 50 and 100 ppm of toluene.

A higher concentration, at 100 ppm, for example causes fatigue and vertigo; at 200 ppm, numbness, mild nausea, and symptoms similar to drunkenness are experienced, and at over 500 ppm, toluene inhalation can result to mental confusion and poor coordination. Still higher concentrations, those reaching 10,000 ppm or more can be severely fatal.

There is a serious health concern on the fact that toluene can have a very big impact on your brain as well as you neurobehavioral performance. Studies have determined that high levels of toluene exposure can result to a decrease in the performance on complicated tasks as well as longer response time.

Long exposure to toluene can result to dry, itchy and red skin or dermatitis. It can also considerably contribute to the level of overall exposure since toluene can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. Prolonged contact to toluene can cause eye irritation, sometimes accompanied by redness and pain. Studies, however, have been inconclusive as to whether toluene can result to color vision disorders.

There have been reports of individuals as well as animals exposed to toluene for long durations that experienced hearing loss or have developed hearing problems, but these are not enough evidence for a direct relationship between long exposure to toluene and hearing loss. Common medications such as aspirin and acetaminophen taken during exposure to toluene can enhance the negative effects of toluene on your sense of hearing.

There is acute central nervous system breakdown in cases of accidental ingestion of toluene and this can also be fatal. Accidental swallowing of toluene exhibits the same symptoms as those of toluene inhalation in addition to abdominal pain and spasms.

Kidney and liver disorders may arise from a long exposure to very high concentrations of toluene. You should also avoid drinking alcoholic drinks since this combination has a dramatic effect on your liver more than each compound alone.

Nonetheless, toluene is not considered to be carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists and the US National Toxicology Program also arrived to the same classification and have not listed toluene among human carcinogens.

Toluene has a moderate health rating, severe flammability rating, slight reactivity rating and a severe contact rating as stated in the SAF-T-DATA ratings. It is very important that personal safety equipments are given to those who handle the compound. Proper storage and maintenance should also be given due attention and caution.

Jo is a writer for 'ReAgent Chemical Services Ltd' (, an established UK based chemical producer that produces, has a supply of and sells a wide selection of high quality chemical products including analytical laboratory chemicals, specialty chemicals and solid chemicals. If your corporation is seeking high quality organic solvents for example Toluene or has other industrial chemical needs for applications like chemical fusion, analytical purposes and cleaning then check out ReAgent Chemical Services Ltd.

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