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Organic Solvents

Toxicology of Specific Groups of Substances

  1. Håkon L. Leira MD1,
  2. Frode Fonnum DrPhil2,
  3. Tore Syversen MSc, DrPhilos Professor of Toxicology3

Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470744307.gat144

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

How to Cite

Leira, H. L., Fonnum, F. and Syversen, T. 2009. Organic Solvents. General, Applied and Systems Toxicology. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    St. Olavs University Hospital, Department of Occupational Medicine, Trondheim, Norway

  2. 2

    University of Oslo, Department of Biochemistry, Institute of Basal Medicine, Oslo, Norway

  3. 3

    Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of Neuromedicine, Faculty of Medicine, Trondheim, Norway

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2009


This chapter describes the exposure, absorption, metabolism and toxic effects, particularly effects to the nervous system, of organic solvents. Since both occupational and domestic exposure is usually to mixtures of individual solvents rather than to single compounds, the metabolic interaction of solvents is addressed, as well as toxic effects of mixtures. Organic solvents have many clinical effects in common, but some solvents have individual effects, for example, the polyneuropathy induced by n-hexane, leukaemia induced by benzene and ventricular fibrillation induced by chlorinated solvents. Such effects, as well as particular metabolic profiles are described in individual sections on aliphatic solvents (chlorinated and nonchlorinated), alicyclic and aromatic solvents, alcohols and glycol ethers. Future challenges include exposure assessment, particularly with regard to occupational exposure. Furthermore, the mechanisms underlying the effects of organic solvents on the central nervous system are still not clear. Further work is also needed regarding carcinogenic properties, the role of genetic polymorphisms and possible immunotoxicological effects.


  • organic solvents;
  • encephalopathy;
  • polyneuropathy;
  • mixed function oxidase;
  • occupational exposure