Skip Navigation

Tox Town - Environmental health concerns and toxic chemicals where you live, work, and play
Tolueneen español
Toluene is a toxic ingredient in solvents, paints, and other household products.

What is toluene?

Toluene is a clear, colorless liquid with a strong, sweet, and pungent odor. It occurs naturally in crude oil. Toluene has a chemical formula of C7H8

Toluene is used as a solvent and to make aviation gasoline, spray and wall paints, paint thinner, medicine, dyes, explosives, detergents, fingernail polish, spot removers, lacquers, adhesives, rubber, and antifreeze. It is also used in some printing and leather tanning processes. 

The largest industrial use of toluene is in the production of benzene, a chemical used to make plastics and synthetic fibers. Toluene is also used to boost the octane of gasoline. Toluene is a volatile organic compound (VOC).

How might I be exposed to toluene?

You can be exposed to toluene by breathing automobile exhaust, pumping gasoline, consuming contaminated food or water, or using other products that contain toluene, such as kerosene, heating oil, paints, and lacquers. 

You can be exposed to toluene at work by breathing contaminated air or having skin contact with it. 

You can be exposed to toluene in your community if toluene is released in a fire or spill or has been contaminating water or air for a long time.

How can toluene affect my health?

Inhaling high levels of toluene can cause death or unconsciousness. Repeatedly breathing toluene over long periods of time at work, or through deliberately "sniffing" or "huffing" glue or paint, can cause death, permanent brain damage, or depression. If you are pregnant, repeated exposure to toluene may increase the risk of damage to the fetus. 

Exposure to high levels of toluene may affect your kidneys, nervous system, liver, brain, and heart. Direct, prolonged contact with liquid toluene or vapor can irritate the eyes and cause dry skin and skin rashes. Ingesting toluene can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and difficult breathing. 

Exposure to low to moderate levels of toluene can cause confusion, light-headedness, dizziness, headache, fatigue, weakness, memory loss, nausea, appetite loss, coughing, wheezing, and hearing and color vision loss. 

If you think you have been exposed to toluene, contact your health care professional. 

For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

This description is based on the information found in the Web links listed with this topic.


Web Links from MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine)
Household Products
Inhalants

More Links
Basic Information about Toluene in Drinking Water (Environmental Protection Agency)
Map of Releases of Toluene in the United States. TOXMAP (National Library of Medicine)
Toluene (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)
Toluene. Haz-Map (National Library of Medicine)
Toluene. Hazardous Substances Data Bank (National Library of Medicine)
Toluene. Household Products Database (National Library of Medicine)
Toluene. PubMed/MEDLINE - Journal articles (National Library of Medicine)
Toluene. ToxFAQs (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)

Locations where Toluene may be found: more neighborhoods >>
City
City
Farm
Farm
Town
Town
Airplanes and Air Travel
Brownfield
Construction
Dental Office and Lab
Factory
Hair and Nail Salons
Homes
Hospital
Indoor Air
Offices and Stores
Outdoor Air
Park
School
Barn and Silo
Homes
Hydraulic Fracturing
Indoor Air
Landfill
Outdoor Air
Shed
Factory
Homes
Indoor Air
Offices and Stores
Outdoor Air
Park
School
<< previous neighborhoods
US Border Regions
US Border Regions
Port
Port
US Southwest
US Southwest
Auto Shop
Border Crossing
Homes
Illegal Dumps and Tire Piles
Indoor Air
Maquiladora
Outdoor Air
Park
Stormwater and Sewage
Tienda
Trash Burning
Beach
Coastal Brownfield
Cruise Ship
Homes
Indoor Air
Marina and Boats
Offices and Stores
Outdoor Air
Shipping
Shipyard
Storms and Floods
Stormwater and Sewage
Urban and Industrial Runoff
Airplanes and Air Travel
Coal-Fired Power Plants
Homes
Hydraulic Fracturing
Illegal Dumps and Tire Piles
Indoor Air
Oil and Gas Fields
Outdoor Air
Trash Burning

Last Updated: April 22, 2014

Interactive Graphic Neighborhoods City Farm Town US Border Regions Port US Southwest