Paint thinner is a generic term used for a variety of organic paint solvents. The two most common commercially sold paint thinners are mineral spirits and oil of turpentine. Mineral spirits are a petroleum distillate comprised of saturated aliphatic and alicyclic C7 to C12 hydrocarbons. Oil of turpentine is comprised primarily of pinene distilled from the turpentine resin exuded by several species of pine trees in the Southeast United States.
Other types of paint thinners available for consumer or industrial use include acetone, mineral turpentine, naphtha, toluene and xylene.
According to studies by the CDC/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, overexposure to these types of organic solvents could result in narcosis, anesthesia, central nervous system depression, respiratory arrest, unconsciousness or death.
Despite these dangers, the voluntary inhaling of solvents to induce a state of euphoria continues to be a national health issue. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates there were 584,000 persons aged 12 or older who had used inhalants for the first time within the past year. An estimated 62.5 percent of these were younger than age 18 when they first used. The average age at first use among recent initiates was approximately 16.5 years.