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April 8, 2022


4 weeks

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4 weeks

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Organic solvents are often the most hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Solvents such as ether, alcohol, and toluene, for example, are highly volatile or flammable. Chlorinated solvents such as chloroform are nonflammable, but when exposed to heat or flame, they may produce carbon monoxide, chlorine, phosgene, or other highly toxic gases.
Always use volatile and flammable solvents in an area with good ventilation or in a fume hood. Never use ether or other highly flammable solvents in a room with open flames or other ignition sources present.

Solvent Exposure Hazards

Health hazards associated with solvents include exposure by the following routes:
  • Inhalation of a solvent may cause bronchial irritation, dizziness, central nervous system depression, nausea, headache, coma, or death. Prolonged exposure to excessive concentrations of solvent vapors may cause liver or kidney damage. The consumption of alcoholic beverages can enhance these effects.
  • Skin contact with solvents may lead to defatting, drying, and skin irritation.
  • Ingestion of a solvent may cause severe toxicological effects. Seek medical attention immediately.
The odor threshold for the following chemicals exceeds acceptable exposure limits. Therefore, if you can smell it, you may be overexposed — increase ventilation immediately.
  • Chloroform
  • Benzene
  • Carbon tetrachloride
  • Methylene chloride

NOTE: Do not depend on your sense of smell alone to know when hazardous vapors are present. The odor of some chemicals is so strong that they can be detected at levels far below hazardous concentrations (e.g., xylene).

In addition, some solvents (e.g., benzene) are known or suspected carcinogens.

Reducing Solvent Exposure

To decrease the effects of solvent exposure, substitute hazardous solvents with less toxic or hazardous solvents whenever possible. For example, use hexane instead of diethyl ether, benzene or a chlorinated solvent.

NOTE: The best all-around solvent is water; use it whenever possible.

The following table outlines possible solvent substitutions:
Instead of Using Substitute
Benzene Cyclohexane Toluene Xylene
Halogenated Solvents Non-Halogenated Solvents
Aromatic hydrocarbon Aliphatic hydrocarbon
Trichloroethylene 1,1,1-trichloroethane
Diethyl ether Hexane Petroleum ether

Course Curriculum

    • Health Hazards of Solvents 01:00:00
    • What is a solvent? 00:10:00
    • Classes of Organic Solvents 00:20:00
    • Scope of Problem 00:10:00
    • Occupational Disease due to Solvents 00:50:00
    • Properties of Solvents 00:20:00
    • Routes of Solvent Exposure 00:15:00
    • Biological Monitoring 00:50:00
    • Occupations Exposed to Solvents 00:15:00
    • Solvent Related Diseases 00:35:00
    • Dx of Solvent-Related Disease 02:30:00
    • Prevention of Solvent Exposures 00:20:00
    • Personal Protective Equipment 00:50:00
    • Chemical Checklist At Workplace 4 weeks
    • Health Hazards of Solvents Training 00:40:00

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