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Toluene

Overview

CAS No. 108-88-3

Toluene (C₆H₅CH₃) is a colorless liquid with a sweet, pungent odor. Workers may be harmed from exposure to toluene. Exposure to toluene can cause eye and nose irritation, tiredness, confusion, euphoria, dizziness, headache, dilated pupils, tears, anxiety, muscle fatigue, insomnia, nerve damage, inflammation of the skin, and liver and kidney damage. The level of exposure depends upon the dose, duration, and work being done.

Toluene is used in many industries. It’s used in paints, dyes, solvents, fingernail polish, and gasoline.  Some examples of workers at risk of being exposed to toluene include the following:

  • Workers in locations where there are leaking underground gasoline storage tanks
  • Technicians who work in nail salons
  • Construction workers who use paint, adhesives or solvents
  • Workers involved with the production of gasoline

NIOSH recommends that employers use Hierarchy of Controls to prevent injuries.  If you work in an industry that uses toluene, please read chemical labels and the accompanying Safety Data Sheets 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 toluene. Useful search terms for toluene include “methyl benzene,” “methyl benzol,” “phenyl methane,” and “toluol.”

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 toluene.

Related NIOSH Resources

Selected Publications

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International Resources

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