Toluene at room temperature is a colourless, volatile liquid with a highly flammable vapour having a characteristic aromatic hydrocarbon odour.
Apart from the risk of vapour ignition, toluene, if inhaled and absorbed through the skin, can have a narcotic and degenerative effect on the central nervous system and cause irritation to the eyes and upper respiratory tract. Although similar chemically to benzene, it has not been shown to be carcinogenic.
Toluene is found in liquid hydrocarbon fuels although its deliberate addition to petrol is illegal in Australia due to the fact that it attracts no excise. It is used extensively as a solvent in surface coatings, varnishes, adhesives and industrial cleaners.