Final report on the safety assessment of sodium p-chloro-m-cresol, p-chloro-m-cresol, chlorothymol, mixed cresols, m-cresol, o-cresol, p-cresol, isopropyl cresols, thymol, o-cymen-5-ol, and carvacrol

Alan Andersen
International Journal of Toxicology 2006, 25 Suppl 1: 29-127
Sodium p-Chloro-m-Cresol, p-Chloro-m-Cresol (PCMC), Mixed Cresols, m-Cresol, o-Cresol, p-Cresol, Isopropyl Cresols, Thymol, Chlorothymol, o-Cymen-5-ol, and Carvacrol are substituted phenols used as cosmetic biocides/preservatives and/or fragrance ingredients. Only PCMC, Thymol, and o-Cymen-5-ol are reported to be in current use, with the highest concentration of use at 0.5% for o-Cymen-5-ol in perfumes. The use of PCMC in cosmetics is restricted in Europe and Japan. Cresols can be absorbed through skin, the respiratory tract, and the digestive tract; metabolized by the liver; and excreted by the kidney as glucuronide and sulfate metabolites. Several of these cresols increase the dermal penetration of other agents, including azidothymidine. In acute oral toxicity studies, LD50 values were in the 200 to 5000 mg/kg day-1 range across several species. In short-term studies in rats and mice, an o-Cresol, m-Cresol, p-Cresol or m-Cresol/p-Cresol mixture at 30,000 ppm in the diet produced increases in liver and kidney weights, deficits in liver function, bone marrow hypocellularity, irritation to the gastrointestinal tract and nasal epithelia, and atrophy of female reproductive organs. The no observed effect levels (NOEL) of o-Cresol was 240 mg/kg in mink and 778 mg/kg in ferrets in short-term feeding studies, with no significant dose-related toxicity (excluding body weight parameters). In mice, 0.5% p-Cresol, but neither m-Cresol nor o-Cresol, caused loss of pigmentation. Short-term and subchronic oral toxicity tests performed with various cresols using mice, rats, hamsters, and rabbits resulted in no observed adverse effect levels (NOAELs) for mice of 625 ppm and rats of 50 mg/kg day-1, although the NOEL was 2000 ppm in a chronic study using rats. In rabbits, < or =160 mg/kg PCMC was found to produce irritation and erythema, but no systemic effects. Hamsters dosed with 1.5% p-Cresol in diet for 20 weeks had a greater incidence of mild and moderate forestomach hyperplasia as compared to the control. Acute inhalation toxicity studies using rats yielded LC50 values ranging from >20 mg/m(3) for o-Cresol to >583 mg/m(3) for PCMC. No deaths were recorded in mice given o-Cresol at 50 mg/m(3). Cats exposed (short-term) to 9 to 50 mg/m(3) of o-Cresol developed inflammation and irritation of the upper respiratory tract, pulmonary edema, and hemorrhage and perivascular sclerosis in the lungs. Rats exposed (subchronic) to o-Cresol at 9 mg/m(3) had changes in leukocytes, spinal cord smears, nervous activity, liver function, blood effects, clinical signs, and neurological effects. In guinea pigs, exposure to 9 mg/m(3) produced changes in hemoglobin concentrations and electrocardiograms (EKGs). Rats exposed (subchronic) to 0.05 mg/m(3) Mixed Cresols by inhalation exhibited central nervous system (CNS) excitation, denaturation of lung protein, and decreased weight gain. All cresols appear to be ocular irritants. Numerous sensitization studies have been reported and most positive reactions were seen with higher concentrations of Cresol ingredients. Developmental toxicity is seen in studies of m-Cresol, o-Cresol, and p-Cresol, but only at maternally toxic levels. In a reproductive toxicity study of a mixture of m-Cresol and p-Cresol using mice under a continuous breeding protocol, 1.0% caused minimal adult reproductive and significant postnatal toxicity in the presence of systemic maternal toxicity. The o-Cresol NOAEL was 0.2% for both reproductive and general toxicity in both generations. Cresol ingredients were generally nongenotoxic in bacterial, fruit fly, and mammalian cell assays. Thymol did not induce primary lung tumors in mice. No skin tumors were found in mice exposed dermally to m-Cresol, o-Cresol, or p-Cresol for 12 weeks. In the trypthan blue exclusion assay, antitumor effects were observed for Thymol and Carvacrol. Clinical patch testing with 2% PCMC may produce irritant reactions, particularly in people with multiple patch test reactions, that are misinterpreted as allergic responses. o-Cresol, p-Cresol, Thymol, Carvacrol, and o-Cymen-5-ol caused no dermal irritation at or above use concentrations. In two predictive patch tests, PCMC did not produce a sensitization reaction. Overall, these ingredients are not significant sensitizing or photosensitizing agents. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel noted some of these ingredients may increase the penetration of other cosmetic ingredients and advised cosmetic formulators to take this into consideration. The CIR Expert Panel concluded that the toxic effects of these ingredients are observed at doses higher than would be available from cosmetics. A concentration limitation of 0.5% was chosen to ensure the absence of a chemical leukoderma effect. For p-Cresol and Mixed Cresols (which contain p-Cresol), the Panel considered that the available data are insufficient to support the safety of these two ingredients in cosmetics. Studies that would demonstrate no chemical leukoderma at concentrations of use of p-Cresol and Mixed Cresols, or would demonstrate a dose response from which a safe concentration could be derived, are needed.

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