Hypothesis-based weight-of-evidence evaluation of the human carcinogenicity of toluene diisocyanate

Crit Rev Toxicol. 2013 May;43(5):391-435. doi: 10.3109/10408444.2013.790877. Epub 2013 May 15.


Humans are exposed to toluene diisocyanate (TDI) primarily through inhalation in workplaces where TDI is produced or used. It is classified as a possible human carcinogen, based primarily on increased tumor incidences in rodents treated with TDI by oral gavage. We used the hypothesis-based weight-of-evidence (HBWoE) method to evaluate whether the available data support the hypothesis that TDI is a human carcinogen. The epidemiology data are not sufficiently robust to support TDI as a human carcinogen; the few positive associations are more likely attributable to alternative explanations than causation. The experimental animal studies indicate that inhalation exposure to TDI does not induce tumors in rats or mice. Tumors observed after oral gavage exposure are most likely due to the conversion of approximately 5% of the administered TDI to toluene diamine (TDA), a known rodent tumorigen. This contention is supported by the observations that TDA is rapidly formed from TDI during in vitro genotoxicity assays, the spectra of responses to TDA and TDI in these assays and in oral bioassays are essentially the same, and TDI is not genotoxic in rodents or humans in vivo after inhalation exposure, when TDA is not formed to a biologically significant degree. We conclude that the weight of the evidence indicates that the conversion of TDI to TDA does not occur in mammalian species under physiological exposure conditions (i.e. inhalation), but is necessary for carcinogenesis to occur. Thus, a causal association between TDI exposure and carcinogenic effects is not plausible in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / administration & dosage
  • Carcinogens / metabolism
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Phenylenediamines / toxicity
  • Rats
  • Species Specificity
  • Toluene 2,4-Diisocyanate / administration & dosage
  • Toluene 2,4-Diisocyanate / metabolism
  • Toluene 2,4-Diisocyanate / toxicity*


  • Carcinogens
  • Phenylenediamines
  • Toluene 2,4-Diisocyanate
  • 2,4-diaminotoluene