Organic solvents

Organic solvents are used for degreasing and cleaning and may also be included in paints and adhesives, for example. Organic solvents will normally be classified as hazardous substances.

Health risks

Organic solvents may damage a number of organs and are absorbed into the body through the lungs or skin. These injuries may be acute or chronic. Acute damage manifests itself through headaches, dizziness, a feeling of intoxication and fatigue, and alcohol acts more quickly than normal. Organic solvents may also irritate the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose and throat and cause eczema.

If you are exposed to organic solvents over a long period, this may cause chronic damage to the brain and the nerve system. The symptoms may include memory loss, nervousness and irritability, followed by fairly severe mental changes, e.g. depression. Some organic solvents may cause cancer and reproductive problems (damage to the unborn child).

Risk of fire and explosion

Organic solvents are often flammable, and their vapours can form explosive mixtures together with the air. When heated, compounds with organic solvents containing chlorine may be split and give off phosgene (a toxic gas).
Flammable and explosive materials require special arrangements.

Use respiratory protection with an air support (provided by a compressor placed in an uncontaminated area, or from air bottles) when working with organic solvents with a boiling point lower than 65°C, as these may be difficult to slow down with a carbon filter.

Precautions

Good advice on the use and storage of solvents:

  • Always use the least harmful solvent.
  • Follow the instructions in the work site usage instructions.
  • Avoid smoking and the use of naked flames (welding, etc.).
  • Make sure there is effective ventilation.
  • Use suitable respiratory protection if it not possible to prevent inhalation of the vapours in any other way.
  • Do not lean over an open container of solvent.
  • Make sure that cleaned and impregnated objects are completely dry before undergoing further processing.
  • Protect your skin from solvents with suitable personal protective equipment, e.g. gloves, overalls, aprons and sleeves, depending on the nature of the work. Immediately remove soaked clothing and wash the skin if your skin is affected.
  • Do not leave solvent-coated cloths lying around, in open containers or hidden in your pockets.
  • Never clean your skin with solvents.
  • Protect your eyes from splashes and spray. If eye irritation does not pass when you flush your eyes with water, see a doctor.