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Cresol

Cresols are a widely occurring natural and manufactured group of chemicals. In their pure form, they are colorless solids and may be liquids if they are mixtures. Cresols smell like medicine.

There are three forms of cresols that are only slightly different in their chemical structure: ortho-cresol (o-cresol), meta-cresol (m-cresol), and para-cresol (p-cresol). These forms occur separately or as a mixture. They are used to dissolve other chemicals, as disinfectants[?] and deodorizers[?], and to make certain chemicals that kill insect pests.

Cresols are found in many foods and in wood and tobacco smoke, crude oil, coal tar[?], and in brown mixtures such as creosote and cresylic acids[?], which are wood preservatives. Small organisms in soil and water produce cresols when they break down materials in the environment.

Health effects

Most exposures to cresols are at very low levels that are not harmful. When cresols are breathed, ingested, or applied to the skin at very high levels, they can be very harmful. Effects observed in people include irritation[?] and burning of skin, eyes, mouth, and throat; abdominal pain and vomiting; heart damage; anemia; liver and kidney damage; facial paralysis; coma; and death.

Breathing high levels of cresols for a short time results in irritation of the nose and throat. Aside from these effects, very little is known about the effects of breathing cresols, for example, at lower levels over longer times.

Ingesting high levels results in kidney problems, mouth and throat burns, abdominal pain, vomiting, and effects on the blood and nervous system.

Skin contact with high levels of cresols can burn the skin and damage the kidneys, liver, blood, brain, and lungs.

Short-term and long-term studies with animals have shown similar effects from exposure to cresols. No human or animal studies have shown harmful effects from cresols on the ability to have children.

It is not known what the effects are from long-term ingestion or skin contact with low levels of cresols.



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