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Toluene

General Description

  • Synonyms: Toluol; Phenyl methane; Methylbenzene
  • OSHA IMIS Code Number: 2460
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 108-88-3
  • NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) Identification Number: XS5250000
  • Department of Transportation Regulation Number (49 CFR 172.101) and Emergency Response Guidebook: 1294 130
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards - Toluene: Physical description, chemical properties, potentially hazardous incompatibilities, and more
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Hazard Summary - Toluene: Uses, sources and potential exposure, acute and chronic health hazard information, and more

Exposure Limits and Health Effects

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-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

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

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

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).


Date Last Revised: 9/6/2012

Literature Basis

  • ACGIH: Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs) - Toluene. 2007.
  • 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/IPCS: International Chemical Safety Cards - Toluene. 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.

Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method:
  • Charcoal Tube (100/50 mg sections, 20/40 mesh)
  • analytical solvent: Dimethylformamide/Carbon Disulfide (60:40)
  • alternative solvent: Carbon Disulfide/Dimethylformamide (99:1)
  • maximum volume: 12 Liters
  • maximum flow rate: 0.05 L/min (TWA)
  • minimum time: >10 minutes
  • maximum flow rate: 0.05 L/min (Ceiling)
  • minimum time: 1 minute
  • maximum flow rate: 0.05 L/min (Peak)
  • current analytical method: Gas Chromatography; GC/FID
  • method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA 111)
  • method classification: Fully Validated
  • Anasorb 747 (140/70 mg sections)
  • analytical solvent: Dimethylformamide/Carbon Disulfide (60:40)
  • maximum volume: 12 Liters
  • maximum flow rate: 0.05 L/min (TWA)
  • minimum time: >10 minutes
  • maximum flow rate: 0.05 L/min (Ceiling)
  • minimum time: 1 minute
  • maximum flow rate: 0.05 L/min (Peak)
  • current analytical method: Gas Chromatography; GC/FID
  • method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA 111)
  • method classification: Fully Validated
  • Diffusive Sampler (SKC 575-002 Passive Sampler)
  • analytical solvent: Dimethylformamide/Carbon Disulfide (60:40)
  • minimum time: < or = 240 minutes (TWA)
  • minimum time: > 10 minutes (Ceiling)
  • current analytical method: Gas Chromatography; GC/FID
  • method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA 111)
  • method classification: Fully Validated
  • Diffusive Sampler (3M 3520 Organic Vapor Monitor)
  • analytical solvent: Dimethylformamide/Carbon Disulfide (60:40)
  • minimum time: < or = 240 minutes (TWA)
  • minimum time: > 10 minutes (Ceiling)
  • current analytical method: Gas Chromatography; GC/FID
  • method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA 111)
  • method classification: Fully Validated
On-Site Sampling Techniques/Methods:
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Gastec
  • model/type: 122
  • sampling information: 0.5 to 2 strokes
  • upper measurement limit: 690 ppm
  • detection limit: 1 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: 16% for 10 to 100 ppm, 8% for 200 to 300 ppm
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (SEI Certified)
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Matheson-Kitagawa
  • model/type: 8014-124SA
  • sampling information: 1 stroke
  • upper measurement limit: 500 ppm
  • detection limit: approximately 5 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: unknown
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (SEI Certified)

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