This page provides information to help you identify and manage the risks from using organic solvents such as toluene, thinners and methyl ethyl ketone in your business.

For every person who dies in New Zealand of a work-related accident, 10 people die from a work-related disease. Organic solvents are a major cause of these diseases.

What are organic solvents?

Organic solvents (eg toluene, thinners and MEK) are used to dissolve or disperse other substances.

Organic solvents are used in many construction and manufacturing workplaces. You can find solvents in a wide range of products including: adhesives, degreasing agents, fillers, cleaning products, lacquers, metal cleaners, ink, paint, resins, rust removers, surface preparation products, dry-cleaning products, fuels.

How can organic solvents affect your health?

Short term effects can include headaches, nausea, eyes, nose, throat and skin irritation, disorientation, feeling drunk/high, drowsiness

Long term effects can include mood changes, memory problems, concentration difficulties, tiredness, weakness.

How can you protect workers?

We have produced guidance on protecting workers from the harmful effects of organic solvents.

Reducing harm when working with organic solvents (PDF 476 KB)
Common mistakes when handling solvents (PDF 250 KB)

Additional information:

The hazardous substances calculator(external link) will help you work out what requirements apply to organic solvents.

Your practical guide to working with hazardous substances(external link) gives practical guidance on handling hazardous substances in the workplace.