May 11, 2010 by Paul Whitehead
I was recently contacted by a Guardian newspaper journalist to provide some background on the properties of n-hexane. A number of people at an electronics plant in China were exposed to n-hexane following the introduction of this chemical as a cleaning and degreasing agent for mobile phone touchscreens. You can access the article on the Guardian website here.
n-hexane is widely used in a number of industrial applications, such as in the formulation of glues, to extract oil from seeds, cleaning and degreasing items, etc. Its long-term exposure hazards have been well known for many years and include progressive peripheral neuropathy, leading to muscular weakness and atrophy, and ultimately to paralysis. In addition there is a potential risk for adverse effects on male fertility. Normally recovery is expected following cessation of exposure, although this can take up to a year or more. Despite the wide recognition of these hazards and the consequent risks, there are still outbreaks of industrial poisoning by n-hexane.