What Is Phenol Used For?

Reviewed on 11/24/2020

What is phenol used for?

Phenols are compounds found in substances used in the lab and other products.
Phenols are compounds found in substances used in the lab and other products.

Phenol is a widely used chemical solvent used in numerous places, including chemistry, biology and medical laboratories. It is extremely toxic toward living cells. Phenol is readily absorbed through intact skin. It is essential that phenol users understand its properties and know correct handling procedures. Proper training for using phenol and personal protection equipment such as aprons and eye wear is recommended while handling phenol. Phenols are widely used in household products and as intermediates for industrial synthesis. The uses include

  • Phenols are used in over-the-counter treatments for sore throats (1.4% concentration).
  • Phenol is present in numerous consumer products that are swallowed, rubbed on or added to various parts of the body. These include ointments, ear and nose drops, cold sore lotions, mouthwashes, gargles, toothache drops, analgesic rubs, throat lozenges and antiseptic lotions.
  • Phenol has been used traditionally for sterilization of surgical areas before performing any procedure.
  • Small amounts of phenol in water have been injected into nerve tissue to lessen the pain associated with certain nerve disorders.
  • Phenol destroys the outer layers of the skin if allowed to remain in contact with the skin. Small amounts of concentrated phenol solutions are sometimes applied to the skin to remove warts and treat other skin blemishes and disorders. Phenol-containing products are used as chemical peels to remove skin lesions and treat severe pain.
  • Phenol in low concentrations is used as a disinfectant in household cleaners and mouthwash. Phenol used as a slimicide (a chemical toxic to bacteria and fungi characteristic of aqueous slimes) is a type of disinfectant.
  • The largest single use of phenol is as an intermediate in the production of phenolic resins.
  • It is also used in the production of caprolactam (which is used in the manufacture of nylon 6 and other synthetic fibers) and Bisphenol A (which is used in the manufacture of epoxy and other resins).
  • It is used in molecular techniques in the DNA labs.

What precautions should I take while using phenol as a topical solution?

Phenol is extremely poisonous and corrosive. It can be absorbed across intact skin. Because it initially may have anesthetic effects, phenol may cause extensive tissue damage before the patient feels any pain. Use phenol topical solution as directed by your doctor. Follow all instructions closely.

  • Do not use phenol topical solution orally. Keep it away from your nose and eyes (may burn). In the event of eye contact, there will be severe pain and redness. Irrigate the affected eye with copious amounts of running water and the immediately to to the hospital.
  • Wash your hands with plenty of water before and after handline phenols.
  • Clean the affected area before use. Make sure to dry the area well.
  • Put a thin layer on the affected skin and rub gently.
  • Do not use coverings (bandages, dressings and makeup) unless cleared by  the doctor.

What are important facts an individual should know about phenol?

Phenol (also known as carbolic acid) is an aromatic organic compound, usually in the form of colorless or white crystals. It has a sickly sweet smell and sharp burning taste. Phenol is part of coal tar and is formed during the natural decomposition of organic materials.

  • Phenol is also used in cosmetics, paints, polishes, adhesives, lacquers, varnishes and solvents.
  • Phenol in the environment is mostly a result of human activity and most of it is in the air.
  • Low-level exposure from the correct use of products that contain phenol would not be expected to cause any adverse health effects. Exposure to high concentrations can result in serious health effects.
  • High concentrations may cause irritation, burns and discoloration of the skin, mouth, throat, eyes and airways.
  • Because phenol is an anesthetic, burns may not be noticed right away. This may result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fast heart rate and sweating.
  • Following exposure to high concentrations, individuals may complain of drowsiness, breathing problems and heart problems.
  • In severe cases, lung and kidney damage can occur.
  • It is allowed in consumer products up to 2.5 percent and soaps and shampoos up to 1 percent.
  • It may also be found in smoked meat and fish products and as a part of smoked flavorings.
  • It is a possible cancer-causing substance.

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References
Medscape Medical Reference

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