Toluene is another contaminant that is often tested for at environmental remediation sites. Toluene occurs in low levels in crude oil. Its atomic structure is very similar to that of benzene ? a ring of six carbon atoms, but one of the six hydrogen atoms has been replaced by a group of one carbon and three hydrogen atoms.
Toluene is a common solvent. It can dissolve paint, rubber, printing ink, adhesives, and leather tanners. Industrial uses include using toluene to produce benzoic acid and benzaldehyde. Toluene is also used as an octane booster in gasoline for vehicles, hence why is tends to show up at UST sites!
Fun Fact: Toluene has been used to remove cocaine from coca leaves during the production of syrup for coca-cola beverages!
Toxicity of Toluene
Toluene is not as toxic as benzene; it has very little carcinogenic potential. However, inhaling toluene can cause drunken-type activities, memory loss, headaches, and nausea. Symptoms usually stop when exposure is stopped.
Written by: Chris Hollinger