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Cresol (All Isomers)

General Description

  • Synonyms: Cresylic acid; ortho-, meta-, or para-Cresol; 2-,3-, or 4-Methyl phenol
  • OSHA IMIS Code Number: 0760
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 1319-77-3 (Cresol); 108-39-4 (m-Cresol); 95-48-7 (o-Cresol); 106-44-5 (p-Cresol)
  • NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) Identification Number: GO5950000, GO6125000, GO6300000, and GO6475000
  • Department of Transportation Regulation Number (49 CFR 172.101) and Emergency Response Guidebook: 2076 153
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, m-Cresol, o-Cresol, and p-Cresol: chemical description, physical properties, potentially hazardous incompatibilities, and more

Exposure Limits

  • OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL):
  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV) (2009): 20 mg/m3 (inhalable fraction and vapor) TWA; Skin; A4
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL): 2.3 ppm (10 mg/m3) TWA

Health Factors

Carcinogenic Classification:

NIOSH Immediately Dangerous To Life or Health Concentration (IDLH): 250 ppm

Potential Symptoms: Irritation of eyes, skin, mucous membranes, sore throat, cough; eye, skin burns; blisters, dermatitis; CNS effects: confusion, depression, respiratory failure; dyspnea, irregular and rapid respiration, pulmonary edema (may be delayed); weak pulse; lung, liver, kidney, pancreas damage. INGES ACUTE: Burning sensation; abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting; sweating, headache, dizziness, muscle weakness, ringing in the ears; pale skin appearance, shock or collapse

Health Effects: Irritation - Eye, Nose, Throat, Skin---Marked (HE14) Acute Toxicity-(CNS) (HE4) Cumulative liver, cardiovascular, kidney damage (HE3)

Affected Organs: Eyes, skin, respiratory system, CNS, liver, kidneys, pancreas, cardiovascular system


  1. Skin is a major route of occupational exposure.
  2. The potential for o-cresol as a contaminant of phenol-formaldehyde resin to be a skin sensitizer has been reported.
  3. EPA's oral reference dose (RfD), the daily oral exposure likely to be without an appreciable risk of deleterious effects during a lifetime, for both o-cresol and m-cresol is 0.05 mg/kg/day, and EPA's provisional oral RfD for p-cresol is 0.005 mg/kg/day.
  4. p-Cresol, described as having a cowy/barny flavor, was identified as one of the flavors formed in nonfat dry milk during storage.
  5. o-Cresol is one of the metabolites of toluene, and its excretion in urine is used as marker for occupational exposure to toluene.

Literature Basis:

  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards: o-Cresol.
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards: m-Cresol.
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards: p-Cresol.
  • International Chemical Safety Cards (WHO/IPCS/ILO): o-Cresol.
  • International Chemical Safety Cards (WHO/IPCS/ILO): m-Cresol.
  • International Chemical Safety Cards (WHO/IPCS/ILO): p-Cresol.
  • EPA Air Toxics Website: Cresol/Cresylic Acid. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Technology Transfer Network.
  • Ana-Lillia, G.Y., Carlos, K., Kazimeirz, W., Elva-Leticia, P.L., Katarzina, W. and Gloria, B.: Occupational exposure to toluene and its possible causative role in renal damage development in shoe workers. Int. Arch. Occup. Environ. Health 78: 1-6, 2005.
  • Bruze, M. and Zimerson, E.: Contact allergy to o-cresol--a sensitizer in phenol-formaldehyde resin. Am. J. Contact Dermat. 13(4): 198-200, 2002.
  • Pohanish, R.P. (editor): Cresols. In, Sittig's Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals and Carcinogens, Fourth Ed., Vol. 1. Norwich, NY: Noyes Publications, William Andrew Publishing, 2002, pp. 672-675.

Date Last Revised: 08/12/2005

Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Primary Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method (SLC1):
  • XAD-7 Tube (100/50 mg sections, 15/50 mesh)
  • analytical solvent: Methanol
  • maximum volume: 24 Liters
  • maximum flow rate: 0.1 L/min
  • current analytical method: High Performance Liquid Chromatography; HPLC/UL33
  • alternate analytical method: Gas Chromatography; GC/FID
  • method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA 32)
  • method classification: Fully Validated

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