Toluene (C7H8) is a colorless liquid with a pungent odor. Stable under normal pressure and temperatures, it is highly flammable and easily ignited by sparks, heat or flame. It floats on water, boils at 232°F and freezes at –139°F.
Also known as methylbenzene, methyl benzol, phenyl methane and toluol, toluene is a component in solvents, adhesives, wood stains, degreasers, gasoline and other fuels. Commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry, it’s also used to make paint and rubber.
Toluene exposure typically affects the kidneys, heart, blood, central nervous system, liver and nervous system. Skin contact can cause irritation, scaling and dermatitis. Toluene vapors may cause paresthesia (burning, tingling or numbing sensation without specific stimuli).
Ingestion may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, weakness, confusion and headache. Inhalation of 200–600 parts per million (ppm) causes upper respiratory tract irritation, fatigue, weakness, confusion, headache, nausea and impaired coordination. Exposure to 800 ppm can cause rapid irritation of nasal and mucous membranes, metallic taste and impaired balance.
Effects of chronic exposure include dermatitis and conjunctivitis. Repeated exposure may cause mucous membrane irritation, vomiting, insomnia, nosebleeds, chest pain, euphoria, headache, memory loss and abnormal bleeding.
• Eyes: Wear splash-proof safety goggles; place an emergency eye wash fountain in the immediate work area. Do not wear contact lenses when working with chemicals. Wearing facial protection such as a face shield is also advised.
• Skin: Wear appropriate gloves to prevent contact with skin.
• Clothing: Wear appropriate protective clothing to prevent contact with skin.
• Respiratory protection: Provide local exhaust or general dilution ventilation. Follow OSHA respirator regulations in 29 CFR 1910.134; use a NIOSH-approved respirator when necessary.
Handling and Storage
Train personnel in proper handling and storage techniques. Wash thoroughly after handling toluene. Avoid breathing toluene vapor, mist or gas. Do not pressurize, cut, weld, braze, solder, drill, grind or expose empty containers to heat, sparks or open flames. Due to its flammability, bonding and grounding should be in accordance with NFPA 77-1983. Follow recommended practices on static electricity when transferring or dispensing toluene.
Store toluene in accordance with 29 CFR 1910. An outside or detached structure is preferred. When storing inside, use a standard flammable storage room or safety cabinet. Avoid contact with nitric acid, sulfuric acid, strong oxidizing agents and organic chlorides.
Fire Fighting Measures
Wear appropriate protective clothing to prevent contact with skin and eyes. Use a self-contained breathing apparatus . If possible, move containers away from fire; cool with fog or spray. For large fires in storage areas, use unmanned hose holder or monitor nozzles. Evacuate to a 2,500-foot safety radius for uncontrollable fires. Keep cooling containers after flames have been put out. Stay away from storage tank ends. Solid streams may spread fire.
For small fires, use dry chemical , carbon dioxide, halon or water spray.
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