Xylene can be found in paint thinners.

Many industries rely on the use of xylene – including the paint and painting industry, biomedical laboratories, automobile garages, the metal industry and furniture refinishers.

What is xylene?

Xylene is a colorless, sweet-smelling liquid that is very flammable. Chemical industries produce xylene from petroleum and it has become one of the top 30 chemicals produced in the United States in terms of volume.

Xylene is often used as a solvent in the printing, rubber and leather industries. It is also a common ingredient in cleaning products, paint thinners, varnishes, adhesives and ink.  According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, xylene is a good cleaning agent for silicon wafers and steel.

The three forms of xylene are meta-xylene, ortho-xylene and para-xylene (also known as m-xylene, o-xylene and p-xylene). Xylene can be absorbed through the respiratory tract and through the skin.

Health effects of xylene exposure

Xylene affects the brain. High levels from exposure for short periods (14 days or less) or long periods (more than 1 year) can cause headaches, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness, confusion, and changes in one’s sense of balance.

Exposure of people to high levels of xylene for short periods can also cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat; difficulty in breathing; problems with the lungs; delayed reaction time; memory difficulties; stomach discomfort; and possibly changes in the liver and kidneys. It can cause unconsciousness and even death at very high levels.

There is insufficient information to determine whether or not xylene causes cancer.

How can workers be exposed to xylene?

  • Breathing xylene in workplace air or in automobile exhaust.

    Car exhaust fumes contain xylene.

  • Breathing contaminated air.
  • Touching gasoline, paint, paint removers, varnish, shellac, and rust preventatives that contain it.
  • Breathing cigarette smoke that has small amounts of xylene in it.
  • Drinking contaminated water or breathing air near waste sites and landfills that contain xylene.
  • The amount of xylene in food is probably low.

How can you tell whether you’ve been exposed to xylene?

Laboratory tests can detect xylene or its breakdown products in exhaled air, blood, or urine. There is a high degree of agreement between the levels of exposure to xylene and the levels of xylene breakdown products in the urine.

However, a urine sample must be provided very soon after exposure ends because xylene quickly leaves the body. These tests are not routinely available at your doctor’s office.

Has the federal government made recommendations to protect human health?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a maximum level of 100 ppm xylene in workplace air for an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek.

Companies that sell xylene caution that it is highly flammable and should only be used in a well ventilated area.

Source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, United States Public Health Service (US Department of Health and Human Services)

Worried about xylene exposure or other hazardous fumes?

AirRhino: Industrial-strength air cleaner.

Electrocorp’s industrial-grade air filtration systems for auto body shops and garages, laboratories, and woodshops use a deep-bed activated carbon filter to remove the widest range of chemicals, gases and fumes, including xylene, benzene and toluene.

The units are also equipped with high efficiency particulate arrestor (HEPA) filters for the removal of fine particles.

Recommended air filtration systems include the AirRhino Series, DirtyDog Series, the I-6500 Series, the RSU Series and the RAP Series.

Contact us for more information.

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