This review presented the physical properties and categories of solvents as well as the major uses and occupations of greatest exposure, and critically reviewed the existing data on solvent induced respiratory effects. The chemicals were broken into eight major groups, based on their chemical structure. The first category consists of an open carbon structure, termed aliphatic hydrocarbons. The other categories include cyclic hydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons, halogenated hydrocarbons, alcohols, ketones, esters, and ethers. Respiratory health effects in both animal studies and human chamber studies were summarized. Case reports of respiratory effects of solvent exposure included hospital staff, hospital workers, spray painters, solvent abusers, an industrial gassing case, and organic chemical manufacturers. Data on acute respiratory effects secondary to solvent exposure have been limited. Data suggested a dose dependent relationship between exposure and mucous membrane irritation, and this outcome was consistent with animal toxicologic studies. Only a few studies have been made of pulmonary function and solvent exposure, and these also have been limited by mixed exposures. The most consistent clinical and toxicologic data for solvent mediated respiratory effects have followed acute massive exposure, and from acute and chronic exposure to a few selected agents.