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Hexane (n-Hexane)

General Description

  • Synonyms: Hexyl hydride; Normal-hexane
  • OSHA IMIS Code Number: 1380
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 110-54-3
  • NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) Identification Number: MN9275000
  • Department of Transportation Regulation Number (49 CFR 172.101) and Emergency Response Guidebook: 1208 128
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards - n-Hexane: Physical description, chemical properties, potentially hazardous incompatibilities, and more
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Hazard Summary - Hexane: Uses, sources and potential exposure, acute and chronic health hazard information, and more

Exposure Limits

Exposure Limit Limit Values HE Codes Health Factors and Target Organs
OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) - General Industry
See 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-1
500 ppm
(1,800 mg/m3) TWA
HE7 Central nervous system depression, slight nausea, headache
HE8 Narcosis
HE16 Eye and throat irritation
OSHA PEL - Construction Industry
See 29 CFR 1926.55 Appendix A
500 ppm (1,800 mg/m3) TWA HE7 Central nervous system depression, slight nausea, headache
HE8 Narcosis
HE16 Eye and throat irritation
OSHA PEL - Shipyard Employment
See 29 CFR 1915.1000 Table Z-Shipyards
500 ppm (1,800 mg/m3) TWA HE7 Central nervous system depression, slight nausea, headache
HE8 Narcosis
HE16 Eye and throat irritation
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) 500 ppm (1,800 mg/m3) TWA HE7 Nervous system disturbances, polyneuropathy
American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV) (2001) 50 ppm (176 mg/m3) TWA

Skin; BEI
HE7 Nervous system disturbances, central nervous system depression, polyneuropathy, peripheral neuropathy, numbness, tingling of extremities, muscle weakness
HE16 Irritation of the eyes, mucus membranes, and skin
CAL/OSHA PEL 50 ppm (176 mg/m3) TWA

HE7 Peripheral neuropathy after skin contact

National Toxicology Program (NTP) carcinogenic classification: Not listed

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) carcinogenic classification: Not listed

EPA carcinogenic classification: Inadequate information to assess carcinogenic potential

EPA Inhalation Reference Concentration (RfC): 7x10-1 mg/m3

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Inhalation Minimal Risk Level (MRL): 0.6 ppm (chronic)

NIOSH Immediately Dangerous To Life or Health Concentration (IDLH): 1,100 ppm (10% LEL)

Notes on Other Potential Health Effects and Hazards

  1. Vapor/air mixtures are explosive (NIOSH/IPCS 2000).
  2. Impairment of color vision can occur that may not be noticeable (subclinical) without specific testing for it (Issever et al. 2002).
  3. n-Hexane is metabolized via CYP2B6, CYP2E1, and alcohol dehydrogenase to 2,5-hexanedione, which, after acid treatment of urine, serves as a marker for biological monitoring of exposure (Bolt et al. 2003).
  4. Suppression of immunoglobulin (IgG, IgM, and IgA) levels were noted from exposure to n-hexane (Karakaya et al. 1996). ATSDR discounted this study because reductions of immunoglobulins remained well within the normal ranges, so the toxicological significance cannot be assessed without further confirmatory studies (ATSDR 1999).
  5. Commercial hexane contains a mixture of hexane isomers (n-hexane, 2-methyl pentane, 3-methyl pentane, 2,3-dimethylbutane), cyclohexane, methyl cyclopentane,pentane and heptane isomers The n-hexane content varies from 20 to 80%. (IPCS 1991)
  6. The OSHA PEL applies to total hexane. The CalOSHA PEL applies to n-hexane.
  7. The EPA IRIS RfC  and ATSDR  MRL apply to n-hexane.
  8. The EPA RfC is based on decreased motor nerve conduction velocity observed ina sub-chronic inhalation study in rats. (Huang 1989).
  9. Polyneuropathy has been observed in automotive technicians using aerosol brake cleaners containing 50%--60% hexane (composed of 20%--80% n-hexane), 20%--30% toluene, and 1%--10% each of methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), acetone, isopropanol, methanol, and mixed xylenes. (MMWR 2001).

Date Last Revised: 11/16/2012

Literature Basis:

Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method:

  • Charcoal Tube (100/50 mg sections, 20/40 mesh)
  • analytical solvent: Carbon disulfide
  • alternative solvent: (99:1) Carbon Disulfide:Dimethylformamide
  • alternative solvent: (95:5) Methylene Chloride:Methanol
  • maximum volume: 4 Liters
  • maximum flow rate: 0.2 L/min
  • current analytical method: Gas Chromatography; GC/FID
  • method reference: NIOSH Analytical Method (NIOSH 1500)
  • method classification: Partially Validated

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