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 article on poisoning.
Overview of some organic solvents
|Polyvinyl chloride|| |
High lipid solubility
- All organic solvents are highly lipid-soluble (i.e., lipophilic), which can lead to:
- Degreasing of the skin → eczema
- Mucosal irritation
- Permeation of the CNS, with symptoms based on the area affected (e.g, headache)
- Peripheral neuropathy (e.g., polyneuropathy )
- Examples: benzidine, 2-naphthylamine, aniline
- Sources of exposure: occupational sources (dyes, oil refining, rubber production, perfumes, pesticides), pharmaceuticals (e.g., benzocaine), and tobacco smoke
- Carcinogenic → transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder
- Benzene derivatives (e.g., aniline and benzocaine) → methemoglobinemia