Agent Name


Alternative Name


CAS Number




Major Category



Methyl benzene; Methyl benzol; Phenyl methane; Toluol; [NIOSH] UN1294


Aromatic Solvents


Colorless liquid with a sweet, pungent, benzene-like odor; [NIOSH]


Derived from petroleum, toluene is used as a solvent and chemical intermediate. Purified toluene contains about 0.01% benzene, but crude toluene may contain as much as 25% benzene. Rotogravure printers were exposed to high concentrations of toluene (decreasing from about 1710 ppm in 1969 to about 43-157 ppm in 1980). [ACGIH] Used in photography (color retouching); []


Chronic abuse from glue sniffing causes permanent cerebral and cerebellar dysfunction. Liver injury has been reported in glue sniffers. [ATSDR Case Studies: Toluene Toxicity] Toluene abuse may induce acute renal failure with rhabdomyolysis documented as the precipitating event in some cases. [Rosenstock, p. 577] Birth defects similar to the fetal alcohol syndrome occur when mothers abuse toluene during pregnancy. A study of women occupationally exposed to toluene showed an increased incidence of spontaneous abortions. [Frazier, p. 184-5] No reproductive toxicity is observed in rats exposed to 500 ppm for 80 days. [ACGIH] "The probability of cognitive deficits due to toluene exposure below a TLV of 50 ppm remains extremely low." [PMID 14598174]

Reference Link

ATSDR Medical Management - Toluene

Exposure Assessment

o-Cresol in urine = 0.3 mg/L (end of shift); Toluene in blood = 0.02 mg/L (prior to last shift of workweek); Toluene in urine = 0.03 mg/L (end of shift); [ACGIH]

Skin Designation (ACGIH)



20 ppm


200 ppm, Ceiling(OSHA) = 300 ppm(500 ppm for 10-min peak per 8-hr shift)


50 ppm


500 ppm

Excerpts from Documentation for IDLHs

Human data: It has been reported that extreme fatigue, mental confusion, exhilaration, nausea, headache and dizziness resulted from exposures to 600 ppm by the end of 3 hours [von Oettingen et al. 1942]. In addition, the following observations have been made: Some workers will tolerate concentrations ranging up to 200 ppm for 6 to 8 hours daily with no demonstrable ill effects; 200 to 500 ppm for 6 to 8 hours will cause tiredness and lassitude in most workers; and concentrations over 500 ppm for 1 to 3 hours are definitely dangerous and will cause symptoms attributable to depression of the central nervous system and the bone marrow [Wilson 1943]. It has also been reported that exposure to concentrations greater than 4,000 ppm for more than 5 minutes might limit self rescue ability [ANSI 1973]. After 20 minutes, exposures to concentrations at 300, 500, or 700 ppm resulted in significant increases in reaction times; a significant decrease in perceptual speed resulted after a 20minute exposure to 700 ppm [Gamberale and Hultengren 1972].

Vapor Pressure

28.4 mm Hg

Odor Threshold Low

0.16 ppm

Odor Threshold High

37 ppm


5300 ppm

Lethal Concentration

LC50 (rat) = 8000 ppm/4H

Explanatory Notes

Detection odor threshold from AIHA (mean = 1.6 ppm); Flash point = 4.4 deg C; [ACGIH]

Half Life

Blood: 0.5 hours (can range up to 90 hours depending upon fat deposition); for hippuric acid in urine: 1.5 hours; [TDR, p. 1145]

Reference Link

ATSDR - ToxFAQs - Toluene

Adverse Effects

CNS Solvent Syndrome


Hepatotoxin, Secondary



Reproductive Toxin


IARC Carcinogen

Not Classifiable

ACGIH Carcinogen

Not Classifiable

Links to Other NLM Databases
Health Studies

Human Health Effects from Hazardous Substances Data Bank:

Toxicity Information


Chemical Information

Search ChemIDplus

Biomedical References

Search PubMed

Related Information in HazMap

Occupational diseases associated with exposure to this agent:


Industrial Processes with risk of exposure:


Activities with risk of exposure: