Phenol distillation (caveat)

Andrew Hobbs andrewh at
Wed Nov 3 21:25:28 EST 1993

Shaun D. Black (SHAUN%JASON.DECNET at wrote:
: A year or so ago I was asked to watch a distillation apparatus that was 
: 'making' phenol.  Noticing a separated joint, I reached in to close it only 
: to have my hand covered with hot phenol (next time I'll set up the 
: apparatus myself!).  Almost instantly, my hand turned 'snow' white. 
: Copious quantities of washing helped, but I still lost a lot of skin on the 
: hand. (Fortunately, it healed essentially as good as new eventually).  Thus, 
: I strongly second the call for safety with phenol!

: Let me close with another 'caveat' on phenol.  Guess what is the
active  : ingredient in the commercial sore-throat remedy known as


I thought you might also be interested in an early medical use for
phenol.  It seemed to be the norm for early open heart surgery (early
this century that is) to be carried out with the whole area including
the surgeons, to be enveloped in a dense mist of phenol solution (I
think it was probably about 1/4 - 1/2 %.  And of course it is a common
ingredient in a number of commercial medical remedies (eg sore throat

Andrew Hobbs
Dept. of Biochemistry
University of Western Australia
andrewh at

:   =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= 
:   = Shaun D. Black, PhD     | Internet:  shaun%jason.decnet at = 
:   = Dept. of Biochemistry   | University of Texas Health Center, at Tyler = 
:   =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= 

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