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Toxic Phenol Ingredient in Vaccines

tube of phenol resinsStory Highlights
  • 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.
Tyson P. The Experiments. Public Broadcasting Service.
10 Lifton R. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. Basic Books 2000.
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Synergism. Government of Canada Aug. 20, 2013.

10 Responses to Toxic Phenol Ingredient in Vaccines

  1. Sandra Lee Smith Reply

    April 5, 2016 at 9:45 am

    I believe the acid to which you refer here is carbolic, not carbonic; the latter being the “fizz” ingredient in carbonated water and soft drinks, and relatively harmless topically, whereas phenol, or carbolic acid is not harmless. At least, that’s what I recall from my chemistry for nurses classes 50 years ago.

    • Marco Caceres Reply

      April 5, 2016 at 11:02 am

      Thank you Sandra. I’ve corrected this…


  2. sheldon101 Reply

    April 5, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Quote from Article: 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.”

    A weak argument? Seems to me to be a great argument. Let me see — water is toxic and will kill in many different ways if you ingest too much or get it in your lungs. So in fact the dose does matter and water is safe when taken in certain volumes.

    Seems like this is also the case with phenol and vaccines.

    • Marco Caceres Reply

      April 5, 2016 at 11:41 am

      Here’s a relevant article you may be interested in…

      Mercury and the Synergistic Toxicity of Vaccines

      < < Synergistic toxicity “refers to the effect that when exposed to two toxins, the toxicity level is far greater than the additive toxicity levels of the two toxins.” Think about it. Doctors are going around assuring their patients that the levels of mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, and numerous other toxins in vaccines are negligible and, thus totally safe to be injected into muscle tissue. Never mind that those toxins ultimately reach the bloodstream and could end up in the brain or other organs. Nothing to worry about. Yet doctors giving vaccines to children and adults don’t know how these ingredients interact with each other. They don’t understand synergistic toxicity. How often do these synergistic toxic effects occur? And who is most vulnerable? >>


      • Christina Reply

        April 5, 2016 at 2:16 pm

        I’m very worried about synergistic toxicity. Beluga whales in Canada have some of the highest cancer rates of any wild animal ever studied. Scientists think it’s because of the chemical cocktail of pollution entering their waters. What about humans and what we’re exposed to? Any one chemical may be proven safe in small doses but the combination of many chemical compounds is what needs to be studied. Is that even possible though when the US government registers around 2000 newly synthesized chemicals each year?…

      • sheldon101 Reply

        April 5, 2016 at 9:54 pm

        Here’s a relevant article you may be interested in…
        Toxic myths about vaccines


        And here’s a money quote from an article about phenols:
        “Phenol is both a manufactured chemical and produced naturally. It is found in nature in some foods and in human and animal wastes and decomposing organic material.”
        “Very small amounts of phenol are produced by the body and excreted independent of external exposure to the compound. Phenol is produced by the action of bacteria on normal constituents of the diet in the gut. Some of this internally-produced phenol may be eliminated in the feces and some may pass to the blood. The normal range of phenol in the urine of unexposed individuals is 0.5–80 milligrams of phenol per liter of urine (mg/L).”

        When we compare that amount daily normally produced and compare it to the total exposure from the vaccine it kinda makes you realize that this is just another attempt to scare the less informed.

        I did a little poking around about “synergetic toxins.” Not surprisingly, most of those first found through google were from the usual suspects. And knowing about the natural production of phenols those synergetic effects, whatever they are, are going to be coming from a synergetic effect with phenols that aren’t introduced into the body from vaccines. Perhaps you should drop phenols from the scare list and go back to using the almost completely removed from vaccines thimerosal.

        What is interesting is that I came across a page from an anti-thimerosal group that made the case for switching from thimerosal to phenol as it was about 150 times safer (330 vs 12). They actually argue for a different compound 2PE which is 6 times ‘better’ than phenol.
        “The Viability of Using Non-mercury Preservatives in Vaccines”

        Now I recognize this approach to switch may be impossible to be accepted by the true vaccine opponent and the easiest way to get rid of preservatives is to manufacture them in single doses, there is an ethical problem. That is, without preservatives, preventing contamination of vaccines needs single dose applications which raise the cost of vaccines which can be a real problem in 3rd world countries and raises issues of getting 2nd best safety compared to 1st world countries as a reason to oppose vaccination.

        • Linda Reply

          April 7, 2016 at 12:10 am

          There is no “oops” here. Consumers and patients are entitled to ask questions and openly discuss products without being ridiculed.

          This is a good article. I will add that I learned many years ago that the active ingredient in Lysol disinfectant is phenol (or at least was phenol at the time). I also know that manufactured insulins contain phenol (not sure if all). So there are many people with diabetes who are being infused with phenol 24/7. I do not know how the dose in insulin compares with vaccines or with multiple vaccines given to a tiny, premature infant all at once or to a fetus via maternal vaccination. Also, do not know about synergisity with other vaccine ingredients obviously not in insulin, what research has been done on this application and if there are long term effects that have not been elucidated. Definitely worth asking though. When it comes to medical intervention, there are no stupid questions and no one should be accused of scaremongering.

          Thanks for this article.

  3. jim Reply

    April 5, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    “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″

    Sooo, why wouldn’t these preservatives prevent (kill or deactivate) the partial live or dead virus that the vaccine is made with specifically to create antibodies? I’m not sure what gram-positive or negative significance is in the equation other than gram negative bacteria are more resistant to antibiotics.

  4. Carrie Elsass Reply

    April 7, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Adjuvants like aluminum are specifically designed to “rile up” the immune response so that it will recognize and form antibodies to the virus in the shot. I have never heard it talked about much, but I feel that it also causes an immune response to other shot components, such as phenol. Don’t many of our kids get the red cheeks and ears when they ingest phenols in foods, indicating an inability to metabolize phenols? Of course we know that peanut oil has been a hidden ingredient in U.S. vaccines, and look at where we are with anaphylactic peanut allergies…

  5. Mickey T Reply

    September 20, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Let’s define “very small amounts”

    I have a quite bad mold sensitivity problem.
    1000 ppm (spores), or less, of a common toxic mold, aspergillus,is an accepted health standard.
    Because I have a history of long term exposure I can’t tolerate 120ppm. 120 was found in my home-I had to live in a hotel for several months and spend a truckload of money to remediate. Finally got back into the house after 5 1/2 months.
    But,the synergistic explanation holds it’s own, in my view.
    I believe it was a pneunovax vaccine which basically ruined my life since 2010.

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