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Phenol

General Description

Synonyms:  Carbolic acid; Hydroxybenzene; Monohydroxybenzene; Phenyl alcohol; Phenyl hydroxide

OSHA IMIS code: 2040

CAS number(s): 108-95-2

Exposure Limits and Health Effects (Updated September 6, 2012)

Standard Set By Exposure Limit Health Effect Codes -- Health Effects and Target Organs
OSHA 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
NIOSH 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
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 PELs 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

Carcinogenic classification:

EPA Inhalation Reference Concentration (RfC): Not established

ATSDR Inhalation Minimal Risk Levels (MRLs): Not established

NIOSH IDLH concentration: 250 ppm

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).

Partial reference list:

  • ACGIH: Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs) - Phenol. 2016.
  • 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/CEC/IPCS: International Chemical Safety CardsPhenol. 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.

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