Last updated: October 30, 2017

What Does Solvent Mean?

A solvent is usually a liquid that is used to dissolve a chemically different material, resulting in a solution or mixture between the two materials.

Solvents are used in a wide range of domestic and industrial processes.

Safeopedia Explains Solvent

In nature, water is the most common solvent. For example, ions are dissolved in water so that they can be utilized by living organisms. Industrial processes make use of less-innocuous solvents including products such as paint thinners, acetone, and a range of solvents used in the oil and gas industries.

Solvents can present workplace hazards to employees who are exposed to them. These may include skin irritations, nervous system toxicity, damage to the reproductive system, liver damage, or renal damage. Certain volatile solvents are associated with potential respiratory damage, while some solvents also have carcinogenic (cancer-causing) properties.

OSHA has promulgated a range of safety standards for the use of specific solvents in industry, and the stringency of control measures is dependent on the specific health risks inherent in the use of these chemicals.


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