Phenol ranked 38th in production among U.S. chemicals in 1978 with annual production of 2.38 billion pounds. Approximately 90% of the phenol produced is used in the manufacture of phenolic (phenol formaldehyde) resins, caprolactam, bisphenol A, alkyl phenol, and adipic acid. The remainder of the phenol is used to produce an assortment of end products, including salicylic acid, phenacetin, dyes, metal cleaners, disinfectants, antiseptics, photographic chemicals, wood preservatives (pentachlorophenol), paints, paint and varnish removers, and agricultural chemicals (2,4-D and parathion).
A bioassay of phenol to test for possible carcinogenicity was conducted by providing this substance in drinking water to F344 rats and B6C3F1 mice. Groups of 50 rats and 50 mice of each sex were given drinking water containing 2,500 or 5,000 ppm phenol for 103 weeks. As matched controls, groups of 50 rats and 50 mice of each sex received tap water.
A dose-related depression in mean body weight gain occurred in rats and mice of each sex. Rats and mice given water containing phenol drank less than did the corresponding controls. A dose-related decrease in water consumption was observed for mice.
An increased incidence of leukemia or lymphomas was detected in male rats and may have been associated with the administration of phenol. Although the incidence of these tumors in the low-dose group was significantly higher than that in controls, the incidence in the high-dose group was not. Thus an association with administration of phenol was not established.
Under the conditions of this bioassay, phenol was not carcinogenic for either male or female F344 rats or male and female B6C3F1 mice.