Xylene Patient Information

What is xylene?
When pure, xylene is a clear, colorless liquid with a sweet odor. It burns readily. Xylene is obtained from crude petroleum and is used widely in many products such as paints, glues, and pesticides. It is found in small amounts in gasoline.

What immediate health effects can be caused by xylene exposure?
Breathing xylene vapors in small amounts can cause headache, dizziness, drowsiness and nausea. With more serious exposure, xylene can cause sleepiness, stumbling, irregular heartbeat, fainting, or even death. Xylene vapors are mildly irritating to the skin, eyes, and lungs. If liquid xylene is held against the skin, it may cause burning pain. Liquid xylene splashed in the eyes can damage the eyes. Generally, the more serious the exposure, the more severe the symptoms.

Can xylene poisoning be treated?
There is no antidote for xylene, but its effects can be treated, and most exposed persons get well. Persons who have experienced serious symptoms may need to be hospitalized.

Are any future health effects likely to occur?
A single small exposure from which a person recovers quickly is not likely to cause delayed or longterm effects. After a serious exposure, some symptoms may take a few days to develop. Repeated sniffing of xylene can cause permanent damage to the brain, muscles, heart, and kidneys.

What tests can be done if a person has been exposed to xylene?
Specific tests for the presence of xylene in blood and urine generally are not useful to the doctor. Methylhippuric acid, a metabolite of xylene, may be measured in urine if the xylene dose was high. If a severe exposure has occurred, blood and urine analyses and other tests may show whether the brain, heart, or kidneys have been injured. Testing is not needed in every case.

Where can more information about xylene be found?
More information about xylene can be obtained from your regional poison control center, the state, county, or local health department; the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR); your doctor; or a clinic in your area that specializes in occupational and environmental health. If the exposure happened at work, you mya wish to discuss it with your employer, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Visit our Regulatory Agencies page to find contact information for the aforementioned government agencies.

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