Xylene is an extremely flammable colourless liquid occurring naturally in petroleum and coal tar. It is produced in high quantities throughout the world and is found in a large range of products.

Xylene Exposure

Occupational exposure and home exposure are equally possible as the substance may be found in many products. Exposure may occur by inhalation or through contact with the skin. These include:

  • Paints
  • Gasoline
  • Cleaning agents
  • Varnish

Occupational exposure to xylene is a concern is likely in any industry using materials containing the substance. These include:

  • Paint industry workers
  • Automobile garage workers
  • Metal workers
  • Biomedical laboratory workers
  • Painters

Groups in Danger

Symptoms of exposure to xylene

Extended exposure to xylene may result in:

  • Headaches
  • Lack of muscle coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Affected sense of balance

Exposure to higher levels of Xylene for a short period may result in:

  • Skin irritation
  • Nose irritation
  • Throat irritation
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Irritation of the eyes

In extreme cases, exposure may result in:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Death

Xylene safety

In the United States maximal allowable levels of xylene in drinking water are 10 parts per million (ppm). In terms of Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S), maximal exposure levels for a normal working week are 100ppm in air. In occupational environments where exposure levels exceed this amount appropriate Personal Protective Equipment should be employed. In occupational environments where inhalation of xylene or other hazardous substances at dangerous levels is possible Personal Escape Masks integrated into emergency procedures.