Xylenes in your home
Xylene is an aromatic hydrocarbon with 3 different forms. The terms xylene and xylenes can be used interchangeably. Learn about sources of xylene, its health effects and how to lower your exposure in your home.
On this page
- Sources of xylenes in indoor air
- Health effects of xylenes
- How to lower your exposure to xylenes in your home
- Exposure limits for xylenes in indoor air in Canada
- Xylenes exposure limits in other countries
Sources of xylenes in indoor air
Xylene is a pollutant found in indoor and outdoor air. Levels of xylenes are generally higher indoors than outdoors.
Indoors, xylenes come from:
- building and renovation materials such as:
- attached garages, especially when used to store:
- gas-powered equipment
Outdoors, xylenes come mainly from:
- forest fires
- petroleum refineries and chemical plants
- combustion of fuels in motor vehicles such as cars, trucks and snowmobiles
Health effects of xylenes
Exposure to xylenes can cause:
- irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract
- acute neurological symptoms including headaches, fatigue, dizziness and nausea
Long-term exposure to xylenes may cause impaired motor coordination.
How to lower your exposure to xylenes in your home
You can lower your exposure to xylenes indoors by increasing ventilation and controlling for sources of xylenes.
You can increase ventilation by:
- opening windows when possible
- check the outdoor air quality condition in your region before opening windows at airhealth.ca
- using mechanical ventilation strategies, particularly in the garage. You can find more information on how to use both natural and mechanical ventilation to improve indoor air quality.
You can control indoor sources of xylenes by:
- not smoking indoors
- choosing low emission products when possible
- not idling your car, snow blower, lawnmower or gas-powered equipment in the garage
- opening windows to ensure good ventilation when using products such as caulking, coatings and stains
- not storing gasoline and other chemicals in your home or garage. If you do need to store these products indoors, ensure they are well sealed.
Exposure limits for xylenes in your home in Canada
We developed short-term and long-term exposure limits for xylenes in indoor air based on:
- xylene sources
- the health effects
- exposure levels in homes in Canada
The short-term (one-hour) exposure limit for all 3 forms of xylenes is 7 200 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3). The long-term exposure limit for all 3 forms of xylenes (based on a 24-hour average) is 150 µg/m3.
These exposure limits protect the health of people in Canada, including those most susceptible to the effects of xylenes.
The recommended exposure limits allow public health officials and other professionals to assess the risk from indoor air pollutants.
Xylenes exposure limits in other countries
Other countries and organizations have established short-term exposure limits for xylenes that differ from Canada's short-term exposure limit (7 200 µg/m3). There are various reasons for this difference, including using older scientific data.
Examples of short-term exposure limits include:
- United States (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) and France: 8 700 µg/m3
- California: 22 000 µg/m3
- European Commission: 20 000 µg/m3
Canada's long-term exposure limit (150 µg/m3) is comparable to limits established by other countries and organizations.
Examples of long-term exposure limits include:
- U.S. (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry): 220 µg/m3
- European Commission: 200 µg/m3
- U.S. (Environmental Protection Agency) and France: 100 µg/m3
If you have questions about the guidelines for xylenes in indoor air, you can contact us at:
- 1-833-223-1014 (toll free)
- Date modified: