Ethylbenzene (also: Ethyl Benzene) is a colourless, flammable liquid. Its molecular formula is C8H10 or C6H5C2H5, and its CAS number is 100-41-4. It has a strong petrol-like odour and it is insoluble in water. The compound is found naturally in products such as petrol and coal tar—and is also produced on an industrial scale for inks, paints and insecticides. [1,2]

Uses [1,2]

Ethylbenzene is used in multiple areas, including in the manufacturing and construction industries. It is mainly used in the manufacture of styrene—a precursor to polystyrene—and other co-polymers. The compound is also used as a solvent in paints, carpet glue, inks, varnishes and pesticides. Ethylbenzene is used in petrol and coal tar processing facilities, as well as a constituent of asphalt.

Routes of Exposure [1,3]

The primary route of occupational exposure is via inhalation.

Indoor levels of the compound tend to be higher than ambient levels due to the presence of household products, such as paints.

Consumer products—such as tobacco smoke, gasoline, varnishes and solvents can result in increased level of exposure to ethylbenzene.

Health Effects

Methylbenzene poisoning can affect a range of systems including the nervous, respiratory and integumentary systems.

Acute Effects [1,3]

Severity of symptoms depend on the level and type of exposure.

Acute effects of ethylbenzene poisoning include irritations of the nose, throat, eyes and skin. It can also result in chest tightness, dizziness and headaches.

Animal studies on the liquid have reported Central Nervous System (CNS) toxicity.

Chronic Effects [1,3]

Ethylbenzene is toxic to multiple body systems. Long-term effects of ethylbenzene poisoning could result in liver and kidney damage and blood toxicity. Animal studies have also shown that chronic effects of ethylbenzene poisoning could include irreversible damage to the inner ear.


~h2First Aid Measures [4]

Inhalation: If someone has inhaled ethylbenzene, move them to a fresh air source (if safe to do so). Contact a medical professional.

Skin contact: Remove affected clothing if safe to do so. Rinse skin with soap and lots of water. Call a doctor or poison centre.

Ingestion: DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING. Rinse out the victim’s mouth with water. Immediately contact a medical professional.

Eye contact: Gently flush the victim’s eyes with water. Contact a doctor.

Exposure Controls/Personal Protection [4]

Engineering controls: Safety showers and emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure. ENSURE THERE IS ADEQUATE VENTILATION. Whenever possible, material should be handled in a laboratory.

Personal protection: Safety glasses, protective and dustproof clothing, gloves, an apron and an appropriate mask/respirator. 

Regulation [5]

~h2United States:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for ethylbenzene at 100ppm, and a short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 125ppm.

Australia [1]

Safe Work Australia: Safe Work Australia has set an 8-hour time weighted average (TWA) for ethylbenzene of 110ppm. Safe Work Australia has set the STEL at a limit of 125ppm.