Excretion of phenols in the urine.

Phenol's chemical formula is C6H5OH.

Phenol is a white crystalline mass which turns red or pink if exposed to air or light. It has a burning taste and a distinct aromatic, acrid odor. It is very soluble in liquid sulfur dioxide, acetic acid, carbon tetrachloride and alcohol, and soluble in chloroform, ether, glycerol, petrolatum, carbon disulfide, volatile and fixed oils, aqueous alkali hydroxides, and acetone. It is slightly soluble in mineral oil. It is almost insoluble in petroleum ether. One gram of phenol dissolves in 15 milliliters (ml) of water and in 12 ml of benzene. Phenol is combustible when exposed to heat, flame, or oxidizers and emits toxic fumes when heated. It is incompatible with strong oxidizers and calcium hypochlorite.

Phenol is found naturally in decaying dead organic matter like rotting vegetables and in coal. It was first isolated in 1834 from coal tar and this remained the main source of phenol until the First World War. The first synthetic method was then devised and all of the phenol today is man made. The prolonged sulphonation of benzene produces a benzene sulphonic acid, which, when fused with caustic alkalis, form a phenol.

Probable routes of human exposure to phenol are inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact.

Non-Cancer: Phenol is a strong eye and respiratory irritant. It is corrosive to the eyes and skin upon direct contact. Acute inhalation exposure may cause nausea, vomiting, cardiac arrthythmias, circulatory collapse, convulsions, and coma. Limited data are available on the chronic effects of phenol in humans from inhalation or oral exposure. In one study, muscle pain, weakness, enlarged liver, and elevated levels of liver enzymes were found in an individual after inhalation and dermal exposure to phenol and other chemicals.

No studies were located regarding adverse developmental or reproductive effects of phenol in humans. Offspring of animals exposed to phenol orally were reported to have reduced fetal body weights, growth retardation, and abnormal development. Decreased maternal weight gain and increased maternal mortality were also observed.

Cancer: No studies were located on the carcinogenic effects of phenol in humans. In some animal dermal exposure studies, indications that phenol may be a tumor promotor and/or a weak skin carcinogen in mice were observed. The U.S. EPA has classified phenol in Group D: Not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity based on lack of data concerning carcinogenic effects in humans and animals. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified phenol in Group 3: Not classifiable for human carcinogenicity.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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