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Toluene

General Description

Synonyms:  Toluol; Phenyl methane; Methylbenzene

OSHA IMIS code: 2460

CAS number(s): 108-88-3

Exposure Limits and Health Effects (Updated September 6, 2012)

Standard Set By Exposure Limit Health Effect Codes -- Health Effects and Target Organs
OSHA PEL - General Industry
See 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-2
(See also ANSI Z37.12-1967)
200 ppm TWA
300 ppm Ceiling
500 ppm Peak (10 minutes)
HE7 -- central nervous system depression, causing fatigue, headache, confusion, paresthesia, dizziness, and muscular incoordination
HE15 -- irritation of the eyes, mucous membranes, and upper respiratory tract
OSHA PEL - Construction Industry
See 29 CFR 1926.55 Appendix A
200 ppm (750 mg/m3) TWA
HE7 -- central nervous system depression, causing fatigue, headache, confusion, paresthesia, dizziness, and muscular incoordination
HE15 -- irritation of the eyes, mucous membranes, and upper respiratory tract
OSHA PEL - Shipyard Employment
See 29 CFR 1915.1000 Table Z - Shipyards
200 ppm (750 mg/m3) TWA
HE7 -- central nervous system depression, causing fatigue, headache, confusion, paresthesia, dizziness, and muscular incoordination
HE15 -- irritation of the eyes, mucous membranes, and upper respiratory tract
NIOSH REL 100 ppm (375 mg/m3) TWA
150 ppm (560 mg/m3) STEL
HE7 -- fatigue, weakness, confusion, headache, dizziness, drowsiness
HE8 -- unconsciousness
HE15 -- irritation of the eyes, respiratory tract, and skin
ACGIH TLV® (2006) 20 ppm (75 mg/m3) TWA
A4
BEI®
HE5 -- female reproductive system damage and pregnancy loss
HE7 -- 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
HE5 -- female reproductive toxicity, spontaneous abortion
HE7 -- impaired color vision, impaired hearing, decreased performance in neurobehavioral analysis, changes in motor and sensory nerve conduction velocity, headache, and dizziness

Carcinogenic classification:

EPA Inhalation Reference Concentration (RfC): 5 mg/m3

ATSDR Inhalation Minimal Risk Levels (MRLs): 1 ppm (acute); 0.08 ppm (chronic)

NIOSH IDLH concentration: 500 ppm

Notes on other potential health effects and hazards:

  1. Vapor/air mixtures are explosive (NIOSH/IPCS 2002).
  2. Cardiac effects were shown in a case study involving acute occupational exposure to toluene (Türkoğlu et al. 2010).
  3. Genotoxic effects were shown in an occupational study involving chronic exposure to toluene (Manikantan et al. 2010).
  4. Fatal concentration is estimated to be 1,800 to 2,000 ppm over one hour (Hobara et al. 2000).
  5. A number of case reports showed developmental effects in infants born to women who were pregnant when exposed to toluene (Donald et al. 1991).
  6. An epidemiologic study found renal-urinary and gastrointestinal defects in infants born to women who were occupationally exposed to toluene during pregnancy (McDonald et al. 1987).
  7. One study found that workers exposed to toluene experienced color vision impairment (Zavalic et al. 1998).

Partial reference list:

  • ACGIH: Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs) - Toluene. 2016.
  • California Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board: Initial and Final Statement of Reasons. March 17, 2012.
  • Donald, J. M., K. Hooper, et al. Reproductive and developmental toxicity of toluene: a review. Environ Health Perspect 94: 237-244, 1991.
  • Hobara, T., Okuda, M., Gotoh, M. Oki, K., Segawa, H. and Kunitsugo, I: Estimation of the lethal toluene concentration from the accidental death of painting workers. Ind. Health 38(2): 228-231, 2000.
  • Manikantan, P., Balachanadar, V., Sasikala, K., Mohanadevi, S., Arun, M., Kumar, A.K., Khan Mustaq Ahamed, S.A., Krishnan, B.B., and Kumar, S.S. Cytogenetic methods for assessing human exposure to toluene in Coimbatore, South India. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 11(6):1687-93, 2010.
  • McDonald, J.C., Lavoie J., Côté R., and McDonald A.D.: Chemical exposures at work in early pregnancy and congenital defect: a case-referent study. Br J Ind Med. 44(8): 527-533, August 1987.
  • NIOSH: Occupational Health Guideline for Toluene. 1978.
  • NIOSH/CEC/IPCS: International Chemical Safety CardsToluene. October 10, 2002.
  • Türkoğlu, C., Aliyev, F., Celiker, C., Uzunhasan, I., and Kocaş, C.: Slow heart-slow brain - consequence of short-term occupational exposure to toluene in a young woman: what is the real mechanism? Clin Cardiol. 33(2):E68-71, 2010.
  • Zavalic M, Mandic Z, Turk R et al.: Quantitative assessment of color vision impairment in workers exposed to toluene. Am J Ind Med 33(3):297-304, 1998.

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