Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Is xylene harmful?

Are you wondering what is in your whiteboard markers that gives that pungent smell? Are you wondering why you or those in the room with you feel unwell when there has been lots of writing on the whiteboard? Headaches, breathing difficulties, and brain fog are a few of the common symptoms associated with the use of regular whiteboard markers, even the ones labeled 'Conforms to AP Non-Toxic'. A common ingredient in many whiteboard markers is the solvent, xylene. Breathing in the vapors of xylene, even trace amounts, can leave many people feeling unwell.

Here's a look at the properties and health risks associated with the chemical xylene:
What is xylene?
  • Xylene is primarily a synthetic chemical produced from petroleum and coal tar.
  • Xylene is one of the top 30 chemicals produced in the United States in terms of volume.
  • It is used as a solvent in the printing, rubber, and leather industries.
  • You may come in contact with xylene from including cigarette smoke, gasoline, paint, varnish, shellac, rust preventives, and markers. Breathing vapors from these types of products can expose you to xylene.
  • Xylene is rapidly absorbed by your lungs after you breathe air containing it, and then passes into the blood soon after entering the body.
  • Indoor levels of xylene can be higher than outdoor levels, especially in buildings with poor ventilation.
  • Xylene stays in the air for several days until it is broken down by sunlight into other less harmful chemicals.
Exposure to xylene:
  • Short-term exposure of people to high levels of xylene can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat; difficulty in breathing; impaired function of the lungs; delayed response to a visual stimulus; impaired memory; stomach discomfort; and possible changes in the liver and kidneys.
  • Both short- and long-term exposure to high concentrations of xylene can also cause a number of effects on the nervous system, such as headaches, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness, confusion, and changes in one's sense of balance.
  • Long-term exposure of animals to low concentrations of xylene has not been well studied.
  • Both the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and EPA have found that there is insufficient information to determine whether or not xylene is carcinogenic.
  • Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of xylene may cause harmful effects to the fetus.
  • The higher the exposure and the longer the exposure to xylene, the greater the chance of harmful health effects. Lower concentrations of xylene are not as harmful.

EcoSmart Products is proud to offer a certified non-toxic alternative to regular whiteboard markers. AusPen Eco-Friendly Markers contain no xylene, and have virtually no odor. Made of a de-natured alcohol, AusPen markers are helping whiteboard users finally clear the air.

Information for this article was obtained from this fact sheet from eco-usa.net.