- Phenol is an ingredient in five U.S. licensed vaccines.
- Phenol is added to vaccines as a preservative to prevent microbial contamination.
- Phenol is toxic and the detrimental effects of injected phenol on human health have not been fully evaluated.
Phenol, chemically known as carbolic acid, is a white, volatile crystal solid. It is a mildly acidic, water-soluble chemical that requires safe handling due its ability to cause chemical burns. Phenol is produced both “naturally” as well as synthetically. In its natural form, phenol was initially found in coal tar. It is also present naturally in human and animal wastes as well as in some foods.1
Chemical companies manufacture phenol on a large scale from petroleum and sell it commercially as a thick liquid.1 2 Over 3 billion pounds of phenol is produced annually in the United States, making it one of the “high volume” chemicals sold internationally.1 2 Manufactured phenol is used as a chemical intermediate to produce industrial commodities such as plastics (BPA), nylon 6, synthetic fibers, detergents, herbicides, pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines.1
Phenol is also added as a disinfectant in over-the-counter products such as lotions, ointments, mouthwashes, oral anesthetic sprays, tanning dyes, etc.1
Two Childhood Vaccines Contain Phenol
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vaccine Excipient and Media Summary lists five U.S. licensed vaccines that contain phenol, including two vaccines routinely given to infants and children:
- Hib (PedvaxHIB)
- Hib/Hep B (Comvax)
- Pneumococcal (PPSV-23—Pneumovax)
- Smallpox (Vaccinia—ACAM2000)
- Typhoid (inactivated—Typhim Vi)3
According to the Institute of Vaccine Safety at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, phenol is used as an antibacterial preservative in these vaccines, which are approved as safe for human use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).4 Although the FDA has acknowledged that vaccine preservatives like phenol and formaldehyde do not necessarily entirely eliminate the risk of contamination, they are still used in vaccine development to prevent contamination from gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, mycobacteria, viruses and some fungi.5 6
Phenol: A Questionable Safety Record
The Materials and Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on ScienceLab.com, which lists manufactured phenol as very hazardous if it makes contact with the skin or eyes, or is ingested or inhaled, states:7
The amount of tissue damage depends on length of contact. Eye contact can result in corneal damage or blindness. Skin contact can produce inflammation and blistering. Inhalation of dust will produce irritation to gastro-intestinal or respiratory tract, characterized by burning, sneezing and coughing. Severe over-exposure can produce lung damage, choking, unconsciousness or death… The substance may be toxic to kidneys, liver, central nervous system (CNS). Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage. … Repeated exposure to a highly toxic material may produce general deterioration of health by an accumulation in one or many human organs.”7
The MSDS does not address the effects of phenol via injection.7 However, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes reproductive and developmental adverse health effects when phenol is orally ingested by animals, and states:
Animal studies have reported reduced fetal body weights, growth retardation, and abnormal development in the offspring of animals exposed to phenol by the oral route. Decreased maternal weight gain and increased maternal mortality were also observed.8
Although the EPA adds that no published studies indicate concerning developmental or reproductive effects of manufactured phenol exposures in humans, if ingested, phenol has severe effects on animal health, so it is reasonable to be concerned about its potential adverse effects on human health.
Phenol Used in Lethal Injections During World War II
Due to phenol’s toxic chemical effect on the central nervous system leading to sudden collapse and loss of consciousness, phenol injections were used as a method of execution in the Third Reich during World War II.9 Phenol injections were used in 1939 as part of Action T4, which was a program of forced euthanasia of those the state considered to be undesireable.10 Although Zyklon B, a cyanide based pesticide was used in gas chambers to kill large numbers of people in concentration camps, Nazi officials discovered that killing people on an individual basis was more economical using phenol injections.10
How safe can injected phenol be, even in small amounts, if it was used as a lethal weapon?
Phenol: Unresolved Scientific Evidence
Given that phenol is (1) considered hazardous if it comes into contact with the skin or eyes or is ingested or inhaled and (2) has been found to have detrimental reproductive and developmental effects when given orally to lab animals and (3) has been used as a poison to kill people, how can it be considered a safe ingredient in vaccines, even in small amounts?
There are weak arguments used to justify the use of toxic substances like phenol in vaccines, including:
- The substances are only present in small concentrations not large enough to cause injury, i.e.: the dose makes the poison.
- Some of the substances can be considered “natural” because they are produced by or found in trace amounts in the human body.
However, the fact remains that there is no hard science evaluating the cumulative and synergistic effects of all the ingredients in the dozens of doses of vaccines given to infants and children. Vaccine manufacturers and public health officials ignore or gloss over what is known as synergistic toxicity, which the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety refers to as:
the effect caused when exposure to two or more chemicals at the same time results in health effects that are greater than the sum of the effects of the individual chemicals. When chemicals are synergistic, the potential hazards of the chemicals should be re-evaluated, taking their synergistic properties into consideration.11
The safety record of injected phenol is neither convincing nor comforting. The FDA is the only government agency legally required to provide scientific evidence that vaccines are safe for human use and the public awaits credible evidence that the toxic chemical, phenol, has been proven safe for use in vaccines.
1 Barlow J, Johnson JA. Factsheet on Phenols. The Breast Cancer and Environment Research Centers Nov. 7, 2007.
2 Weber M, Weber M, Kleine-Boymann N. Phenol. Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry Oct. 15, 2004.
3 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine Excipient and Media Summary. CDC.gov Feb. 2015.
4 The Institute for Vaccine Safety. Vaccine Excipients. John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health May 28, 2014.
5 Geier D, Jordan S, Geier M. The Relative Toxicity of Compounds Used As Preservatives in Vaccines and Biologics. Medical Science Monitor 2010; 16(5): SR21-27.
6 Kolhe P, Shah M, Rathore. Sterile Product Development: Formulation, Process, Quality and Regulatory Considerations. AAPS Press 2013.
7 Materials Safety Data Sheet. Phenol. ScienceLab.com May 21, 2013.
8 U.S Environmental Protection Agency. Phenol. EPA.gov Feb. 23, 2016.
9 Tyson P. The Experiments. Public Broadcasting Service.
10 Lifton R. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. Basic Books 2000.
11 Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Synergism. Government of Canada Aug. 20, 2013.