Cresols (Phenol, methyl- substances)

(Phenol, methyl- substances)

What are they?

  • Cresol (Phenol, methyl-) substances, also known as cresols, are industrial chemicals which also occur naturally in the environment.
  • Cresols are widespread in nature, occurring in plants and as natural components of crude oil, coal tar and brown cresylic-type mixtures. They can also be produced by many organisms, including humans.
  • Cresols occur naturally in a variety of food and beverages, but levels in foods are generally low.
  • They are also natural products of incomplete combustion and may be produced and released from natural fires associated with lightning, combustion, and volcanic activity.

How are they used?

  • Cresols have a variety of industrial and consumer applications. They are used as intermediates in the production of other compounds and products; as industrial cleaners and solvents; synthetic food flavours; preservatives in drugs; and fragrances in pest control products. Major uses of cresols in Canada are in fuel-related products, engine part cleaners, and disinfectants.
  • o-Cresol and m-cresol are used as laboratory reagents for research of medical devices; o-cresol is also used in adhesives and sealant substances in electrical and electronic devices as well as other components in the automotive sector. p-Cresol is present in a paint additive. Mixed cresols are used in the manufacture of imported automotive components for assembly in finished vehicles.
  • Based on the most recent data, cresols are both manufactured in and imported into Canada. Much of the manufacturing activity is associated with the incidental production of cresols during processing of other materials.

Why did the Government of Canada assess them?

  • Cresols were identified as posing a potential concern to human health based on international classification as substances that may cause cancer in animal studies.
  • Cresols are four of six substances in the Internationally Classified Substance Grouping, which were identified as priorities for assessment as they either met the categorization criteria of the Domestic Substances List and/or were associated with human health concerns.
  • The internationally classified substances are being considered as part of the Substance Groupings Initiative for screening assessments of their potential risks to the environment and to human health.

How are Canadians exposed to them?

  • The general population of Canada is expected to be exposed to low levels of cresols from their naturally occurring presence in a variety of food and beverages.
  • Additional sources of exposure to cresols include ambient air in the vicinity of pulp and paper mills.

How are they released into the environment?

  • Cresols are expected to be released primarily to air, with releases also occurring to surface waters and soils.
  • Cresols have been detected in all environmental media, including air, surface and ground waters, sediment, soil, and biota. However, given the extensive natural presence of these substances in the environment, their occurrence cannot always be linked with human activities.

What are the results of the assessment?

  • The Government of Canada has conducted a science-based evaluation of cresols, called a screening assessment.
  • Screening assessments address the potential for harm to the general population of Canada and the environment.
  • Results of the final screening assessment indicate that cresols are not expected to accumulate in organisms or remain in the environment for a long time.
  • Furthermore, the quantity of cresols originating from industrial activities that may be released to the environment is below the level expected to cause harm to organisms.
  • The Government of Canada has therefore concluded that cresols are not entering the environment at levels that constitute a danger to the environment.
  • The Government of Canada has also concluded that cresols are not harmful to human health at current levels of exposure.
  • Hazards related to chemicals used in the workplace should be classified accordingly under the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).

What is the Government of Canada doing?

  • The Government of Canada published the Final Screening Assessment on Cresols on May 28, 2016.
  • Based on the conclusion of the final screening assessment, the Government of Canada proposes that no further action be taken on cresols.
  • Health Canada‚Äôs List of Prohibited and Restricted Cosmetic Ingredients (more commonly referred to as the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist) is used to communicate that certain substances may contravene the general prohibition found in section 16 of the Food and Drugs Act. Cresols already appear on this list as prohibited cosmetic ingredients, and were therefore not assessed for cosmetic use in the screening assessment.

What can Canadians do?

  • The health risks associated with a chemical depend on the hazard (its potential to cause health effects) and the dose (the amount of chemical to which you are exposed). Cresols are not a concern for human health or the environment at current levels of exposure.
  • Canadians who may be exposed to cresols in the workplace should consult with their employer and occupational health and safety representative about safe handling practices, applicable laws and requirements under OHS legislation and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).
  • As a general precaution, Canadians are reminded when using any product to carefully follow any safety warnings and directions, and to dispose of the products appropriately.
Cresols assessed by the Government of Canada
CAS RN DSL Name
95-48-7 o-cresol
106-44-5 p-cresol
108-39-4 m-cresol
1319-77-3 Mixed cresols

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