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Phenol

General Description

  • Synonyms: Carbolic acid; Hydroxybenzene; Monohydroxybenzene; Phenyl alcohol; Phenyl hydroxide
  • OSHA IMIS Code Number: 2040
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 108-95-2
  • NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects (RTECS) Identification Number: SJ3325000
  • Department of Transportation Regulation Number (49 CFR 172.101) and Emergency Response Guidebook: 1671 153
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards - Phenol: Chemical description, physical properties, potentially hazardous incompatibilities, and more
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Hazard Summary - Phenol: Uses, sources and potential exposure, acute and chronic health hazard information, and more

Exposure Limits and Health Effects

Exposure Limit Limit Values HE Codes Health Factors and Target Organs

OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) - General Industry
See 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-1  

5 ppm
(19 mg/m3)
TWA

Skin

HE4

Systemic poisoning

HE14

Marked irritation of the nose, throat, and eyes

OSHA PEL - Construction Industry
See 29 CFR 1926.55 Appendix A

5 ppm
(19 mg/m3) TWA

Skin

HE4

Systemic poisoning

HE14

Marked irritation of the nose, throat, and eyes

OSHA PEL - Shipyard Employment
See 29 CFR 1915.1000 Table Z-Shipyards

5 ppm
(19 mg/m3) TWA

Skin

HE4

Systemic poisoning

HE14

Marked irritation of the nose, throat, and eyes

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL)

5 ppm
(19 mg/m3) TWA

15.6 ppm
(60 mg/m3) Ceiling
(15 minutes)

Skin

HE3

Liver and kidney damage

HE4

Systemic effects

HE7

Central nervous system effects

HE14

Eye, mucous membrane, and skin irritation

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) TLV (1992)

5 ppm
(19 mg/m3) TWA

Skin; A4; BEI

HE3

Cardiovascular, hepatic, and renal toxicity

HE4

Serious systemic effects, including convulsions and death

HE7

Neurologic toxicity

HE14

Eye, mucous membrane, respiratory, and skin irritation

CAL/OSHA PEL

5 ppm
(19 mg/m3) TWA

Skin

HE3

Cardiovascular, hepatic, and renal toxicity

HE4

Serious systemic effects, including convulsions and death

HE7

Neurologic toxicity

HE14

Eye, mucous membrane, respiratory, and skin irritation

Notes on Other Potential Health Effects and Hazards

  1. Phenol is combustible, and vapor/air mixtures of phenol may be explosive at temperatures above 79°C (NIOSH/IPCS 2001).
  2. A mean of 11.7 mg/liter was reported for 26 males (all smokers) acting as controls for 89 employees occupationally exposed to phenol, who had a mean level of 87.3 mg/liter (corrected for specific gravity) after 4 hours at work (Bieniek 1994).
  3. A five-year retrospective review of all exposures to a high-concentration phenol disinfectant reported a number of fatalities after dermal exposure alone, oral exposure alone, and concurrent oral/dermal exposure; the study reported one fatality after inhalation exposure (Spiller et al. 1993).

Date Last Revised: 9/6/2012

Literature Basis

  • ACGIH: Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs) - Phenol. 2001.
  • Bieniek, G.: Concentrations of phenol, o-cresol, and 2,5-xylenol in the urine of workers employed in the distillation of the phenolic fraction of tar. Occup. Environ. Med. 51(5): 354-356, 1994.
  • NIOSH: Occupational Health Guideline for Phenol. 1978.
  • NIOSH/IPCS: International Chemical Safety Cards - Phenol. October 15, 2001.
  • Spiller, H.A., Quadrani-Kushner, D.A. and Cleveland, P.: A five year evaluation of acute exposures to phenol disinfectant (26%). Clin. Toxicol. 31(2): 307-313, 1993.

Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method:
  • 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/UV
  • alternate analytical method: Gas Chromatography; GC/FID
  • method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA 32)
  • method classification: Fully Validated
Bulk Method:
  • Limit the amount of bulk submitted to one gram or one mL.

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