The main effect of inhaling xylene vapor is depression of the central nervous system (CNS), with symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. At an exposure of 100 ppm, one may experience nausea or a headache. At an exposure between 200 and 500 ppm, symptoms can include feeling "high", dizziness, weakness, irritability, vomiting, and slowed reaction time.
The side effects of exposure to low concentrations of xylene (< 200 ppm) are reversible and do not cause permanent damage. Long-term exposure may lead to headaches, irritability, depression, insomnia, agitation, extreme tiredness, tremors, hearing loss, impaired concentration and short-term memory loss. A condition called chronic solvent-induced encephalopathy, commonly known as "organic solvent syndrome" has been associated with xylene exposure. There is very little information available that isolates xylene from other solvent exposures in the examination of these effects.
Hearing disorders have been also linked to xylene exposure, both from studies with experimental animals, as well as clinical studies.
Xylene is also a skin irritant and strips the skin of its oils, making it more permeable to other chemicals. The use of impervious gloves and masks, along with respirators where appropriate, is recommended to avoid occupational health issues from xylene exposure.
Xylenes are metabolized to methylhippuric acids. The presence of methylhippuric acid can be used as a biomarker to determine exposure to xylene