Volatile Solvents

Volatile Solvents

What are Volatile Solvents

Volatile solvents are man-made chemicals we inhale as fumes or vapors or that are absorbed on skin contact. Living in modern society exposes us to solvents such as gasoline, exhaust fumes, paints and paint thinners, dry cleaning chemicals and more.

Exposure comes from inhaling volatile solvents, which are then absorbed into our blood from the lungs or from contact of liquid solvents with exposed skin. Most people are able to detoxify these chemicals rapidly unless constantly exposed through occupational exposures. However, some people have genetic modifications, called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which hinder rapid elimination of solvents and other chemicals, causing a toxic burden.

Constant exposure to volatile solvents, or a person's inability to detoxify these chemicals can result in:

  • Neurotoxicity
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Increased allergies
  • Autoimmunity
  • Reduced immune system function
  • Increased risk for some cancers
  • Fertility issues
  • Delayed childhood development

Items Containing Volatile Solvents

Nail polish and nail polish remover

Contains toluene


Contains benzene, Ethylbenzene, toluene, hexane
Adhesives are used for carpeting, laminates, cabinets, and linoleum flooring

Car exhaust

Contains benzene, xylene, styrene, toluene, hexane


Contains benzene, ethylbenzene, hexane


Contains toluene

Paint and paint thinner

Contains benzene, ethylbenzene, xylene, toluene, hexane


Contains xylene, toluene
Rubber is found in many consumer products such as shoes, car interiors, toys, furnishings

Printing inks

Contains Ethylbenzene, styrene, toluene
Used in mass-production printing industries

Cigarette smoke

Contains benzene, xylene, styrene, toluene

Industrial emissions

Manufacture of gasoline
Crude oil processing
Coal processing
Manufacture of Styrene

Insulation and Fiberglass



Contains xylene, toluene
Leather clothing, shoes, furnishings, and car interiors

Dry cleaning fluids and detergents

Contains benzene


Contains benzene, iso-octane, Ethylbenzene, xylene, toluene, hexane

Furniture wax

Contains benzene

Water supply

Contains benzene, ethylbenzene
Well water and groundwater can become contaminated from leaking gas containers and large underground storage tanks, and landfill run-off.
See how your city measures up with Environmental Working Group's National Drinking Water Database.


Contains styrene, toluene
Storing and heating food and liquids in Styrofoam containers

Jet fuel

Contains hexane