Health Effects

Affects brain/nervous system & reproduction; liver and kidney toxicity; respiratory impairment; cancer; dermatitis.

Found In

Paint; dry cleaning chemicals; paint thinners/strippers; nail polish removers; spot removers; art materials; adhesives; glues; personal care products & cleaners; contaminated drinking water; children’s products.

More Details

Solvents are substances used in industrial applications and by consumers to dissolve other substances or chemicals. Common exposure to solvents (toluene, ethyl alcohol, turpentine, acetone, kerosene, benzene, naphthas, lacquer thinners, mineral spirits, methyl chloroform) occurs through use of: paint; paint strippers/ thinners; varnishes; dry cleaning chemicals; cleaners/degreasers; nail polish and removers; spot removers; art materials; adhesives; glues; or automotive products.

Studies of long-term and high exposures to organic (carbon-based) solvents, as in the workplace, present a high health hazard, including severe acute symptoms, such as blindness, irregular heartbeat, and damage to organs and nervous system. While household exposure levels are significantly lower than workplace exposures, it’s important to note that many solvents are: 1) carcinogens or reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens (benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, 1,4-dioxane, perchloroethylene, styrene, trichloroethylene);[i] 2) reproductive toxicants (2-ethoxyethanol, 2-methoxyethanol, methyl chloride); and/or 3) recognized neurotoxins (n-hexane, tetrachloroethylene (TCE) and toluene).[ii]

Numerous solvents of concern are present at low levels as contaminants and intentionally added to children’s products, including 4-nonylphenol, acetaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, ethylbenzene, ethylene glycol, methyl ethyl ketone, methylene chloride, and toluene. They are in product components such as surface coatings, textiles, inks/dyes, synthetic polymers, and bio-based materials.[iii]


1.          National Institutes of Health

2.          Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIOSH

3.          Washington Department of Ecology, Children’s Safe Products Act reporting data for 2016-2017.


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