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Methyl Alcohol (Methanol)


CAS No. 67-56-1

Methyl alcohol (CH3OH) is a colorless liquid with a strong odor. It is a poisonous substance that can be absorbed through the eyes, skin, lungs, and digestive system.  Overexposure can cause death. Workers may be harmed by exposure to methyl alcohol. The level of harm depends upon the dose, duration, and work being done.

Methyl alcohol is used in many industries. It is used in solvents, deicers, and the manufacturing of plastics, polyesters, and other chemicals. Some examples of workers at risk of being exposed to methyl alcohol include the following:

  • Factory workers in plants that manufacture plastics
  • Transportation workers exposed to the deicing of vehicles
  • Workers who work in alternative fuel industries
  • Workers exposed to certain solvents or cleaning agents

NIOSH recommends that employers use Hierarchy of Controls to prevent injuries. If you work in an industry that uses methyl alcohol, please read chemical labels and the accompanying Safety Data Sheet for hazard information. Visit NIOSH’s page on Managing Chemical Safety in the Workplace to learn more about controlling chemical workplace exposures.

The following resources provide information about occupational exposure to methyl alcohol. Useful search terms for methyl alcohol include “methanol,” “carbinol,” “columbian spirits,” “pyroligneous spirits,” “wood alcohol,” “wood naphtha,” and “wood spirits.”

NIOSH Chemical Resources

Logo of NIOSH Pocket Guide

NIOSH Pocket Guide

The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (NPG) helps workers, employers, and occupational health professionals recognize and control workplace chemical hazards.

Logo of Manual of Analytical Methods.

Manual of Analytical Methods

The NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods (NMAM) is a collection of methods for sampling and analysis of contaminants in workplace air, and in the blood and urine of workers who are occupationally exposed.

Logo of Health Hazard Evaluations consisting of three letters: HHE

Health Hazard Evaluations

The Health Hazard Evaluation Program (HHE) conducts onsite investigations of possible worker exposure to chemicals. Search the HHE database for more information on methyl alcohol (methanol).

Related NIOSH Resources

Selected Publications

Related Resources

International Resources