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Occupational Exposure Limits

The amount of toluene that a worker breathes over a work day is determined by the concentration in air, and the length of time the worker is in that atmosphere. Enforceable limits in the United States for the concentration in air have been established by Federal OSHA. Certain OSHA State Plan states, such as the California OSHA program, have limits as well. Recommendations for exposure limits have been made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. The Hazard Communication Standard requires that the Threshold Limit Value (TLV) be disclosed on a safety data sheet.

Legally Enforceable Limits

The OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) for toluene in general industry, construction and maritime were set in 1971. More recent exposure limits are provided below:

The CalOSHA PEL was established in 2012. The basis for the PEL is further discussed on the California - Department of Industrial Relations website. Exposure limits are provided below:

  • CalOSHA PEL: Time Weighted Average (TWA) 10 ppm, 37 mg/m3, ceiling 500 ppm, Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL) 150 ppm, 560 mg/m3, Skin
Occupational Exposure Recommendations

The NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) was published in 1973. The REL was established to prevent changes in muscular coordination, reaction time, mental confusion and irritation of mucous membranes.

  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL): 100 ppm, 375 mg/m3 10-hour TWA; 150 ppm, 560 mg/m3 STEL
  • NIOSH Immediately Dangerous To Life or Health Concentration (IDLH): 500 ppm

The ACGIH Threshold Limit Value (TLV) was established in 2007. The TLV for toluene was established to protect against subclinical changes in color vision and the potential for spontaneous abortion in female workers. The application of TLV's is discussed in the Statement of Position Regarding the TLVs and BEIs. The TLV is required to be disclosed on the safety data sheet.

  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV): 20 ppm, 75 mg/m3 TWA; Skin; Appendix A4 - Not Classifiable as a Human Carcinogen; BEI
Table of Exposure Limits and Recommendations

Exposure Limit

Limit Values

Health Factors and Target Organs

  • 200 ppm TWA
  • 300 ppm Ceiling
  • 500 ppm Peak
  • (10 minutes)

Central nervous system depression, causing fatigue, headache, confusion, paresthesia, dizziness, and muscular incoordination

Irritation of the eyes, mucous membranes, and upper respiratory tract

200 ppm (750 mg/m3) TWA

Central nervous system depression, causing fatigue, headache, confusion, paresthesia, dizziness, and muscular incoordination

Irritation of the eyes, mucous membranes, and upper respiratory tract

200 ppm (750 mg/m3) TWA

Central nervous system depression, causing fatigue, headache, confusion, paresthesia, dizziness, and muscular incoordination

Irritation of the eyes, mucous membranes, and upper respiratory tract

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL)

  • 100 ppm (375 mg/m3) TWA
  • 150 ppm (560 mg/m3) STEL

Fatigue, weakness, confusion, headache, dizziness, drowsiness

Unconsciousness

Irritation of the eyes, respiratory tract, and skin

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV)(2007)

  • 20 ppm
  • (75 mg/m3) TWA
  • A4; BEI

Female reproductive system damage and pregnancy loss

Central nervous system impairment and visual impairment

CAL/OSHA PELs

  • 10 ppm
  • (37 mg/m3)
  • TWA
  • 500 ppm Ceiling
  • 150 ppm (560 mg/m3) STEL
  • Skin

Female reproductive toxicity, spontaneous abortion

Impaired color vision, impaired hearing, decreased performance in neurobehavioral analysis, changes in motor and sensory nerve conduction velocity, headache, and dizziness

Additional Information
  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a Workplace Safety and Health Topic related to Toluene. The page includes links to many other resources such as the NIOSH Pocket Guide, International Chemical Safety Cards, NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods and many other related documents and resources.
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