What Is the Difference Between Xylene and Xylol?

Xylol is a term secondary but equivalent to xylene that refers to three isomers of dimethylbenzenes. While these three isomers differ in molecular structure, specifically the location of a methyl group on a hydrocarbon ring, all share the same chemical formula.

Xylene has three isomers: m-xylene, p-xylene, and o-xylene, or meta, para and ortho respectively. Commercially-sold xylene often contains additional chemicals such as ethyl benzene, trimethyl benzene, toluene, phenol, thiophene, pyridine and hydrogen sulfide. While these isomers are not soluble in water, they mix favorably with other chemicals, resulting in their numerous applications.

Xylene, or xylol, is commonly manufactured for the purpose of a solvent, although can also serve as a paint thinner, cleaning agent or additional material. Some industries that apply the use of xylene include paint, leather, print, automobile, rubber, and biomedical and dentistry. Depending on its destination, varying percentages of its three isomers are combined. However, the mixed product identifies solely as xylene, which makes the term versatile.

Regardless of its popularity in laboratories, factories and stores, xylene exhibits negative effects on human health. Both short-term and long-term exposure to xylene damages organ function, the central nervous system and includes less serious side effects such as mucous membrane irritation, headaches, dizziness and confusion. The degree of damage is subject to the concentration of xylene and length of exposure.