• Clinical science

Organic solvent toxicity

Summary

Organic solvents are used in detergents, insecticides, and a number of industrial settings. Most of these substances are highly lipid-soluble and therefore capable of causing CNS disorders and polyneuropathy. Some organic solvents break down into metabolites that are carcinogenic. While the metabolites may be found in urine or blood, the diagnosis is usually established based on clinical features and a history of exposure. Most organic solvents do not have an antidote; therefore, treatment is generally supportive.

For an overview of other types of substance toxicity (e.g., with organophosphates), see the learning card on poisoning.

Overview

Overview of some organic solvents

Effects
Aromatic amines
Lindane
Polyvinyl chloride
Hydrocarbons

High lipid solubility

References:[1][1][1][1][2]

Aromatic amines

References:[1][3]

Lindane

  • Sources of exposure: skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation of hexachlorocyclohexane found in insecticides or topical creams for scabies
  • Effects
    • CNS: dizziness, vertigo, headache
    • Carcinogenic effects are currently being investigated.

References:[6904;681]

Polyvinyl chloride

References:[1]

Hydrocarbons

References:[2][4]

  • 1. Marquardt H, Schäfer SG, McClellan R, Welsch F . Toxicology. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press; 1999.
  • 2. Levine MD. Hydrocarbon Toxicity. In: Miller MA. Hydrocarbon Toxicity. New York, NY: WebMD. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/821143. Updated June 6, 2017. Accessed September 26, 2017.
  • 3. Roberts SM, James RC, Williams PL. Principles of Toxicology: Environmental and Industrial Applications. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 2014.
  • 4. Lewander WJ, Aleguas A Jr, Burns MM, Wiley JF II. Hydrocarbon Poisoning. In: Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hydrocarbon-poisoning. Last updated April 25, 2017. Accessed September 26, 2017.
last updated 11/28/2019
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