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Chemical Treatment Guide 9: WHITE


Phenol (carbolic acid), at room temperature, is a translucent, colorless, crystalline mass; white
powder; or thick, syrupy liquid. The crystals turn pink to red in air. Phenol has a sweet, tar-like
odor that is readily detected at low concentrations. It is soluble in alcohol, glycerol, petrolatum,
and, to a lesser extent, water.
Phenol is absorbed rapidly by all routes; however, the inhalation hazard is limited. In dilute
concentrations (1% to 2%), phenol may cause severe burns. Systemic toxicity can rapidly lead to
Phenol is mainly used in the manufacture of phenolic resins and plastics. It is also used as a
disinfectant and has some medicinal applications (e.g., Campho Phenique®).

Nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, excessive sweating, headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, seizures,
loss of consciousness, coma, respiratory depression, inflammation of the respiratory tract, shock,
and death. Exposure to skin can result in severe burns, which will cause the skin to have a white,
red, or brown appearance. Failure to decontaminate the skin may allow the phenol to be absorbed
systemically, resulting in death.

• Used in the manufacture of phenolic resins and plastics
• Used as a disinfectant
• Campho Phenique®

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