Toluene is a man-made hydrocarbon derived from benzene. Toluene is the primary odor component in gasoline. It is used in chemical manufacturing and as a solvent.

Appearance: Colorless liquid or gas.

Odor: Floral, pungent, rubbery, mothballs, paint thinner.


Mobile: Automobiles.

Stationary: Toluene is only emitted by facilities that use it as a feedstock or solvent. These include petrochemical plants, manufacturers of paint and ink, and printers.

Indoors: Paints, solvents, adhesives, nail polish, and cigarette smoke.

Exposure effects

Short-term (acute): Light exposure: Fatigue, sleepiness, headaches, and nausea.

Medium to high exposure: Depression of the central nervous system, cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).

Long-term (chronic): Depression of the central nervous system, including drowsiness, ataxia, tremors, cerebral atrophy, nystagmus (involuntary eye movements), and impaired speech, hearing, and vision; cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat); developmental impacts to the fetus in pregnant women. No known carcinogenicity.

Health Standards

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Effects Screening Level:

Short term (1 hour): 1,200 parts per billion (ppb).

Long term (1 year): 320 ppb.

Odor: 170 ppb.