Toluene is a chemical added to gasoline and solvents, and used to produce a variety of products including paints, rubber, lacquers, and adhesives. Toluene is regularly used in the chemical production process when manufacturing benzene, nylon, and plastics.
It is considered a critical element in several industries, though can be extremely hazardous to employees health and toluene exposure may lead to serious health consequences for unprotected workers and consumers.
Employers have a duty to protect workers and end-users of toxic chemical products, and should injuries and diseases occur due to toluene exposure, a manufacturer and company may be held liable for chronic toxic exposure and workplace injury cases. Contact an experienced workplace attorney to investigate the root cause of an injury or illness.
Joe Lyon is an experienced Personal Injury Attorney and Toxic Tort Lawyer with experience engaging employers following toxic toluene exposure at the workplace. The Lyon Firm represents injured plaintiffs nationwide.
Toluene Uses & Known Toxicity
Toluene is used as a solvent in paints, coatings, fragrances, adhesives, inks, and cleaning agents. It is also used in a number of personal care products, including in nail polishes, hardeners, lacquers, and nail polish removers. It is a versatile chemical, and also used in gasoline production and can improve octane ratings.
At the workplace, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a legal toluene exposure limit for workers of 200 parts per million (ppm) over an 8-hour workday. The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), however, has set a lower recommended limit of 100 ppm over a 10-hour workday. And more concerned with serious health effects, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recommends that toluene in workplace air not exceed 20 ppm over an 8-hour workday.
The central nervous system is the primary target for toluene toxicity for both acute and chronic exposures. Chronic inhalation exposure also causes irritation to the upper respiratory tract and eyes. Studies have reported developmental effects and limb anomalies in the children of pregnant women exposed to high levels of toluene.
The highest concentrations of toluene is usually detected from the use of household cleaners and in the workplace in occupations like painting, printing and chemical production. Common conditions and injuries reported following Acute or Chronic inhalation exposure include:
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Swollen liver
- Hemorrhage of the lungs
- Kidney damage
- Respiratory infection
- Cerebral atrophy
- Involuntary eye movement
- Degeneration of nasal and respiratory epithelium
- Pulmonary lesions
Workplace Toluene Exposure Prevention
At the moment, the EPA considers that there is inadequate information to assess the carcinogenic potential of toluene exposure, yet safety agencies and OSHA recommends the following to help protect employees from toluene exposure:
- Consider a less toxic cleaning and degreasing substitute
- Substitute a brush, roller or flow application for spray applications
- Consider paints or adhesives that do not contain toluene
- Use the smallest amount of solvents necessary for each job
- Workplace Ventilation Risks