Phenol Toxins: A Deep Dive

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phenol toxin deep dive

You know that I LOVE a great deep dive into toxins that are around our house.  There are so many that oftentimes we don’t even know what we’re bringing inside in terms of toxic chemicals and products that are affecting our daily well-being.  One of the toxins that I didn’t learn about until much later is phenol toxins.  Phenols are often found in cleaners, but are also found in other household products and materials.

Today I want to take you through exactly WHY we don’t want these chemicals in our homes, where we have enclosed spaces.  Afterall, our homes are probably pretty closed up now with the cooler weather, which means that any toxin we bring into our space has very little chance of escaping before we come in contact with it.

And if you have kids around, the risk for some of these health problems that I’m going to outline are increased.  Kids are much smaller than us and their organs and systems are smaller as well.  This means that what may not affect us as adults, can certainly trigger a chain effect of endocrine, developmental and skin issues within a child simply due to their size.  Kids also probably ingest more toxins than adults as well due to their hand to mouth habits and the fact that they’re often in contact with plastic through toys and dishes.

Remember, that the goal with these deep dive series is to give you ALL the information you need to understand what this toxin is doing in your home, how it gets there and most importantly, how to remove it.  Some toxins can only be limited rather than removed — and that’s okay.  It’s important to remember that just changing the things you have complete control over can really have a big impact in your home and health.


Phenols are an organic compound that is weakly acidic and also water soluble.  It is often used in the medical field as a disinfectant.

Naturally, it comes from decomposing organic material and waste as well as tar and coal.   Phenol is formed during forest fires as well from the creosote and benzene fumes.  (SOURCE)

This doesn’t sound like it’s all bad, right?   The problem comes in when phenol is used to create phenolic resins (human made polymers), BPA and other synthetic fibers.   It also should be noted that while small traces may be acceptable to our human bodies, there are SO many sources of phenols in our day to day life that we are being constantly exposed to this chemical.

Due to the disinfection properties in this toxin it does have the ability to cause burns to tissue or skin that it comes in contact with.  Our skin also absorbs this toxin when it comes in contact with it in various applications.

how to reduce toxins at home


Like I mentioned earlier, we come in contact with phenols constantly in our day to day lives.  I think THIS is where the biggest problem comes into play with phenol toxins.  Coming into contact with this toxin in one product may be fine for our bodies to handle, but once you add up all the places we allow this toxin into our home, it adds up quickly and begins to burden our bodies immune system and hormone system.

Some of the places that phenol toxins are present in home products are:

  • Air Fresheners
  • Deodorants
  • Hair Spray
  • Mouthwash
  • Aspirin
  • Acne Medications
  • Cleaning Products
  • Detergents
  • Furniture Polish
  • Aerosol Disinfectants
  • Cosmetics
  • Disinfecting Cleaners
  • All-Purpose Cleaners
  • Sunscreens
  • Lotions

Phenol is also a large component of phenolic adhesives which are used in adhering plywoods and other composite type woods.  

It is also present in plastics, fertilizers, paints and textiles within your home.  Because phenol is added to herbicides and fertilizers, it’s important to also mention that drinking water can contain phenols, which is considered a toxic contaminant.

You can see that this toxin is in MANY products and widely used.  It doesn’t mean you need to cut it out of everything, but finding healthier, more natural products to begin to eliminate it from areas of your home is a healthy change you can make.

phenol toxins are in your home and beauty products, but they're easy to swap out


Phenol is quickly absorbed through the skin and begins to negatively affect the kidneys and liver right away.  Some animal studies that have been done indicate that phenol can negatively affect fetal development when the chemical is ingested.

Most studies point to the fact that phenols are most toxic to infants and unborn babies as the absorption rate is so high with this toxin. (STUDY)  A study done showed phenol has been associated with reductions in fetal weight  and an increase in unusual neurological symptoms in newborns (STUDY).

Phenol toxins also mimic estrogenic activity, which can in turn cause hormone imbalance.  Once thing that we know comes from unbalanced hormones is an increased risk in breast cancer development.   (STUDY)

One of the larger studies conducted on phenol is it’s toxicity to the reproductive system in both men and women.  (STUDY

health effects of phenol toxins


One of the best ways to cut phenol toxins out of your home is to be really aware and really intentional with what you bring in.  I can’t stress this point enough, but YOU are the keeper of your home and YOU get to decide what comes in and what your family uses.  This is why I think the idea of conscious consumerism is SO incredibly important. 

Now, that doesn’t mean just opting for any product you find that says “green”, “eco friendly”, “free and clear” or “healthy”.  These are those unregulated terms I’ve talked about in the past that really don’t mean anything when they’re being advertised on the back of a package.

Instead, if you’re unsure about your products, do a little research before you replace it.  The great thing with cutting out phenol toxins is that many of the products that contain this toxin are SUPER SIMPLE swaps when you’re ready.

Below is my list of healthy and safe swaps that I use in my own home instead of toxic products that can contain phenol and other toxins:

how to avoid phenol toxins

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