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General Description

Synonyms: Coal Tar Pitch Volatiles: Phenanthrene; Phenanthrin

OSHA IMIS Code Number: 2038

Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 85-01-8

NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) Identification Number: SF7900000

Chemical Description and Physical Properties:
colorless shining crystals with a faint aromatic odor
molecular formula: C14H10
molecular weight: 178.23
boiling point: 340°C
vapor pressure: 1 mm Hg @ 118.2°C
melting point: 100°C
Exposure Limits

OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL):
General Industry: 29 CFR 1910.1000 Z-1 Table -- See Coal Tar Pitch Volatiles

Construction Industry: 29 CFR 1926.55 Appendix A -- See Coal Tar Pitch Volatiles

Maritime: 29 CFR 1915.1000 Table Z-Shipyards -- See Coal Tar Pitch Volatiles
Health Factors

Carcinogenic Classification:
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carcinogenic classification: Group D, not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to human

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) carcinogenic classification: Group 3, not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans
Potential Symptoms: Irritation of skin and respiratory tract; cough, sore throat; dermatitis (itching, rash, blisters, burns) with UV light exposure (photosensitization); eye redness, pain; INGES. ACUTE: Abdominal pain.

Health Effects: Irritation-Eyes, Nose, Throat, Skin---Mild (HE16)

Affected Organs: Skin; multiple tumor sites in animals (e.g., mammary, stomach, lung, skin).

  1. Phenanthrene usually occurs as part of a mixture of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in coal tar pitch volatiles and diesel exhaust.
  2. End-of-shift urinary levels of unchanged phenanthrene were found to be higher in road pavers (exposed to hot asphalt) than general road construction employees (exposed to diesel exhaust).
  3. Comparison of urinary levels of a tetra- hydroxylated metabolite indicated mean concentrations (in pmol/mg creatinine) of 1.51 in non-smokers, 4.58 in smokers, 25.7 in coke oven workers, and 791 in psoriasis patients receiving coal tar therapy.
  4. More commonly, other hydroxylated metabolites of phenanthrene in urine are used as markers to monitor occupational exposure to PAHs.
Date Last Revised: 10/04/2006

Literature Basis:
  • U.S. EPA Integrated Risk Information System. Phenanthrene (CASRN 85-01-8).
  • Campo, L., et al. Biological monitoring of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by determination of unmetabolized compounds in urine. Toxicol. Lett. 162(2-3): 132-138, 2006.
  • Elovaara, E., Mikkola, J., Makela, M., Paldanious, B. and Priha, E. Assessment of soil remediation workers' exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH): biomonitoring of naphthols, phenanthrols, and 1-hydroxypyrene in urine. Toxicol. Lett. 162(2-3): 158-163, 2006.
  • Hecht, S.S., Chen, M., Yagi, H., Jerina, D.M. and Carmella, S.G. r-1,t-2,3,c-4-Tetrahydroxy-1,2,3,4-tetrahydrophenanthrene in human urine: a potential biomarker for assessing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon metabolic activation. Cancer Epidemiol. Biomarkers Prev. 12(12): 1501-1508, 2003.
  • Jacob, J. and Seidel, A. Biomonitoring of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in human urine. J. Chromatogr. B. Analyt. Technol. Biomed. Life Sci. 778(1-2): 31-47, 2002.
  • Pohanish, R.P. (editor) Phenanthrene. In, Sittig's Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals and Carcinogens, Fourth Ed., Vol. 2. Norwich, NY: Noyes Publications, William Andrew Publishing, 2002, pp. 1817-1818.
  • Popp, W., et al. DNA single strand breakage, DNA adducts, and sister chromatid exchange in lymphocytes and phenanthrene and pyrene metabolites in urine of coke oven workers. Occup. Environ. Med. 54(3): 176-183, 1997.
  • Rihs, H.P., et al. Occupational exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in German industries: association between exogenous exposure and urinary metabolites and its modulation by enzyme polymorphisms. Toxicol. Lett. 157(3): 241-255, 2005.
Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method:
  • sampling media: Glass Fiber Filter (37 mm)
    analytical solvent: Benzene
    maximum volume: 960 Liters   
    maximum flow rate:
    2.0 L/min
    current analytical method: High Performance Liquid Chromatography; HPLC/UV/FLU
    method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA 58)
    method classification: Fully Validated (In conjuction with Coal Tar Pitch Volatiles and Coke Oven Emissions)
    note: After sampling, filter must be transferred to a glass vial with a Teflon-lined cap. Sample must be protected from direct sunlight.