The Effects Of Xylene And How To Stay Safe

Xylene is one of the most versatile chemicals in the industry, with incredible potential for thinning oil-based paints, among a whole host of other functions. Though as with any powerful chemical, it’s important to understand the risk to chemical handlers and the environment. For the chemists and staff at SolvChem Custom Packaging Division, safe handling is second nature. We want that to be the case for our customers, as well.

Below, learn about some of the more common safety hazards of xylene, and get a better sense of how you can protect yourself.

Understanding the Risks

Xylene is a powerful chemical used for heavy-duty tasks ranging from varnish to airplane fuel creation. As such, you’re not dealing with an everyday consumer-grade cleaner.

As a clear liquid, it can be tricky to contain without proper care. Keep an eye out for xylene leaking into soil or surface water. What’s more, xylene evaporates at a very fast rate. Even if it’s not seeping into the ground, it could be infiltrating the air you breathe. Seasoned handlers are acutely aware of these risks and take the necessary precautions to monitor for leaks and to prevent them in the first place — but it’s incumbent on the customer to do the same.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Exposure

Xylene is toxic. While there’s no way around that fact, you can protect yourself and others just by knowing exposure symptoms of which to be aware.

Xylene can affect a person’s nervous and respiratory system, as well as the cardiovascular system. As such, symptoms of exposure could be as obvious as labored breathing or chest pain. Other symptoms might creep up on you — such as dizziness, fatigue and decreased coordination. An exposed person might also grow anxious. If left untreated, symptoms of exposure can become life-threatening. Those more noticeable levels of exposure might include nausea, vomiting and tremors. The most serious risks include paralysis, coma or even death.

When handling xylene, be aware of how you feel personally so that you can seek help when recognizing the first symptom. Also, watch others closely, as inexperienced chemical handlers might ignore their symptoms or refuse to report them.

What You Can Do to Limit Exposure

First and foremost, you should be able to identify xylene. When cracking open your container, the first thing you’ll probably notice is the sweet odor specific to xylene. Learn to recognize it. If dealing in consumer-grade products, make sure your customers can do the same.

Xylene must be properly stored. Keep your product in an area that maintains a fairly consistent temperature, and it should be well-ventilated. Routinely check your container for any leaks. Because xylene is quick to dry, you may need to rely on your sense of smell.

Finally, always use the right personal safety gear. Protect your eyes and clothing, and wear safety gloves that are designed for safe chemical handling.

The SolvChem Custom Packaging Division staff is happy to walk you through some more comprehensive safety guidelines. We encourage you to contact us with any questions about xylene or other hazardous chemicals.