Safety Tips Chemical safety Workplace exposure

Avoid toluene exposure

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Toluene – often used in paint, metal cleaners and adhesives – is a clear, colorless liquid that vaporizes when exposed to air at room temperature. According to OSHA, it also has a sharp and sweet smell, which is a sign of exposure.

“Symptoms worsen as exposure increases, and long-term exposure may lead to tiredness, slow reaction, difficulty sleeping, numbness in the hands or feet, or female reproductive system damage and pregnancy loss,” OSHA states.

Long-term exposure to toluene can affect the nervous system, and exposure to high concentrations can result in loss of consciousness and death.

Keeping workers safe

OSHA recommends the following to help protect employees from toluene exposure:

  • For cleaning and degreasing purposes, substitute – whenever possible – a water-based product that doesn’t contain toluene. Also, substitute a brush, roller or flow application for spray applications.
  • Buy paints or adhesives that don’t contain toluene.
  • Refrain from using spray applications when working with a toluene-containing product.
  • When working with a product that contains toluene, use the smallest amount necessary to get the job done.
  • Ensure the work area is properly vented. “Ventilation can be a combination of local exhaust, such as spray booths or enclosing and exhausting processes where toluene is evaporating, and room ventilation to capture those vapors that escape containment,” OSHA states.

For more information on toluene, visit

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