Target Organ Toxicity

Target organ toxins are chemicals that can cause adverse effects or disease states manifested in specific organs of the body. Toxins do not affect all organs in the body to the same extent due to their different cell structures.

The following is a target organ categorization of effects, which may occur from exposure to hazardous chemicals, including examples of signs and symptoms, and chemicals that have been found to cause such effects.




Hepatotoxins (liver)

jaundice, liver enlargement

carbon tetrachloride, nitrosamines, chloroform, toluene, perchloroethylene, cresol, dimethyl sulfate

Nephrotoxins (kidney)

edema, proteinuria

halogenated hydrocarbons, uranium, chloroform, mercury, dimethyl sulfate

Neurotoxins (nervous system)

narcosis, behavioral changes, decreased muscle coordination

mercury, carbon disulfide, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, lead, mercury, nitrobenzene

Hematopoietic (blood) system

cyanosis, loss of consciousness

carbon monoxide, cyanides, nitrobenzene, aniline, arsenic, benzene, toluene

Pulmonary (lung) system

cough, tightness in chest, shortness of breath

silica asbestos, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, hydrogen sulfide chromium, nickel, alcohol

Reproductive system (mutations and teratogenesis)

birth defects, sterility

dibromo dichloropropane

Skin (dermal layer)

defatting of skin, rashes, irritation

ketones, chlorinated compounds, alcohols, nickel, phenol, trichloroethylene

Eye or vision

conjunctivitis, corneal damage

organic solvents, acids, cresol, quinone, hydroquinone, benzyl chloride, butyl alcohol, bases

When handling these materials you should use the same precautions as handling other toxins, which involves:

  • Working in areas labeled with warning signs and restricted access
  • Always use a fume hood or other containment devices for procedures with the potential to release vapors or fumes
  • Avoid skin contact by wearing proper PPE such as, gloves, goggles, lab coat with long sleeves and closed toe shoes
  • Wash arms and hands after working with these materials
  • Maintain records of the amount of the toxin used
  • Assure that at least two people are present at times of use
  • Be aware of any antidotes incase of accidental exposure

Page last modified December 7, 2016