Phenol distillation

Toby Bradshaw toby at
Tue Nov 2 14:46:53 EST 1993

In article <1993Nov2.172808.1 at>,
 <awalley at> wrote:
>   Nobody seems to be mentioning the fact that phenol is a toxic chemical.

Perhaps because this is well-known and on the Material Safety Data Sheet
that comes with every container of it here in the U.S.

>is corrosive and slightly anaesthetic which is a very dangerous combination. 

Of course, this is true whether one buys phenol or distills it him/herself.

>One of the safety handbooks I read has a story of a guy who suffered severe 
>damage to his foot because he was unaware that he had spilt phenol onto his 
>shoe and it had run inside. It has also been regularly mentioned around here 
>that because phenol is toxic, burns covering greater than approx. 15% of skin 
>surface are often fatal. These may all be mol.biol. mythical 'facts' but until 
>somenone disproves them to my satisfaction I for one will never re-distill my 
>own phenol.

Do you have someone dispense petrol into your vehicle, as well :)
Distilling phenol is a simple process requiring only a little prudence
to be done safely.  At US$11 a kilo, distillation of crude crystalline
phenol is a good way for scientists to economize.  If phenol distillation
is the biggest threat to one's personal safety, one is fortunate indeed.

Toby Bradshaw                       |
Department of Biochemistry          |  Will make genetic linkage maps
and College of Forest Resources     |            for food.
University of Washington, Seattle   |
toby at               |

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