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(Date of issue: May 2011, Version: 1)

This is a UKTIS monograph for use by health care professionals. For case-specific advice please contact UKTIS on 0344 892 0909. To report an exposure please download and complete a pregnancy reporting form. Please encourage all women to complete an online reporting form.


Xylene is a hydrocarbon solvent found in glues, printing inks, epoxy resins, paints and herbicides.  It exists as a mixture of three isomers, ortho-, meta- and para- xylene, and may also contain substantial amounts of ethylbenzene as a contaminant.

The evidence on the reproductive toxicity of xylene is inconsistent and this may reflect in part the different toxicological profiles for each isomer, or the use of technical grade xylene with its differing compositions of isomers and possible contamination with ethylbenzene.

Prolonged maternal exposure to hydrocarbon (organic) solvents such as xylene during pregnancy has been shown, in one study, to increase the risk of spontaneous abortion, however there is no clear evidence for an increased risk of congenital malformations.

Neurodevelopmental problems including cognitive deficits have been reported in children exposed in utero to hydrocarbon solvents, however interpretation of the data is complicated by a number of confounders.

As with all chemicals, unnecessary exposure to xylene should be avoided.  However, where occupational exposure is unavoidable then precautions should be taken to ensure that exposure is well within the recommended exposure limits and not associated with toxic symptoms.

Provided there is no associated maternal toxicity, inadvertent exposure to xylene would not usually be regarded as medical grounds for termination of pregnancy or additional prenatal diagnostic tests.

Note: This document has been archived and will not be routinely updated. If up-to-date information is required please contact UKTIS.

This document is regularly reviewed and updated. Only use full UKTIS monographs downloaded directly from TOXBASE.org to be sure you are using the most up-to-date version. The summaries of these monographs are openly available on UKTIS.org.

This is a summary of the full UKTIS monograph for health care professionals and should not be used in isolation. The full UKTIS monograph and access to any hyperlinked related documents is available to health care professionals at www.toxbase.org.

If you have a patient with exposure to a drug or chemical and require assistance in making a patient-specific risk assessment, please telephone UKTIS on 0344 892 0909 to discuss the case with a teratology specialist.

If you would like to report a pregnancy to UKTIS please click here to download our pregnancy reporting form. Please encourage all women to complete an online reporting form.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that this monograph was accurate and up-to-date at the time of writing, however it cannot cover every eventuality and the information providers cannot be held responsible for any adverse outcomes of the measures recommended. The final decision regarding which treatment is used for an individual patient remains the clinical responsibility of the prescriber. This material may be freely reproduced for education and not for profit purposes within the UK National Health Service, however no linking to this website or reproduction by or for commercial organisations is permitted without the express written permission of this service. This document is regularly reviewed and updated. Only use UKTIS monographs downloaded directly from TOXBASE.org or UKTIS.org to ensure you are using the most up-to-date version.