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Current Trends Dinitrotoluenes in the Workplace

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) periodically issues documents to transmit new information or to update existing information on specific chemical substances, physical agents, or safety hazards found in the workplace. One such recently issued document is summarized below. It is available for distribution as indicated.

On July 5, 1985, NIOSH released Current Intelligence Bulletin #44*: Dinitrotoluenes. Dinitrotoluene (DNT) is used in the manufacture of dyes, munitions, and explosives, but its major use today (99%) is in the synthesis of toluenediamine (TDA), an organic intermediate in the production of polyurethane. In 1982, approximately 720 million pounds of technical grade DNT (TDNT) were produced in the United States. NIOSH estimates that as many as 1,300 workers are exposed to various forms of DNT.

NIOSH recommends that TDNT and the 2,6 isomer of DNT (2,6-DNT) be considered potential human carcinogens in the workplace. Exposure to TDNT or 2,6-DNT has been shown to produce malignant tumors in rats and mice. In addition, a reproductive hazard may exist for workers exposed to TDNT or 2,6-DNT. This concern is based on testicular atrophy, decreased spermatogenesis, or aspermatogenesis seen in three species of experimental animals exposed to TDNT or 2,6-DNT and on nonfunctioning ovaries in mice exposed to TDNT. Although evidence is limited indicating that 2,4-dinitrotoluene (2,4-DNT) poses a risk to human health, the existing animal and in vitro data are suggestive of such a potential. As prudent public health policy, NIOSH recommends that employers assess the conditions under which workers may be exposed to TDNT or the isomers of DNT and take all reasonable precautions to reduce exposure to the fullest feasible extent.

The strains of animals used, the doses and routes selected for administration of the test compounds, and the short duration of several studies impose limitations on the interpretation of these studies. However, NIOSH has determined that the collective toxicologic data on metabolism, mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, and reproductive effects provide sufficient evidence to warrant concern for adverse health effects from occupational exposure to TDNT or 2,6-DNT.

Workers may be exposed to DNT by the dermal and inhalation routes; concentrations have ranged from not detectable to 0.89 mg/m((3)). Guidelines for minimizing worker exposure to DNT include recommended procedures and equipment for controlling worker exposure (e.g., contamination control, worker isolation, or personal protective equipment) and recommendations for exposure monitoring and medical surveillance.

Copies are available without charge from Publications Dissemination Section, Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226; (513) 841-4287. Reported by Div of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC. *NIOSH issues current intelligence bulletins (CIBs) to disseminate new scientific information about occupational hazards. A CIB may draw attention to a hazard previously unrecognized or may report new data suggesting that a known hazard is either more or less dangerous than was previously thought.

Disclaimer   All MMWR HTML documents published before January 1993 are electronic conversions from ASCII text into HTML. This conversion may have resulted in character translation or format errors in the HTML version. Users should not rely on this HTML document, but are referred to the original MMWR paper copy for the official text, figures, and tables. An original paper copy of this issue can be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402-9371; telephone: (202) 512-1800. Contact GPO for current prices.

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