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Creosote Poisoning
June 2003

Q. My husband works for a power company and scratched his eye. Several days later broke out in a rash that looked like shingles. He went to the doctor and was told he had Creosote poisoning. Can you give me any information about this? Could the Creosote have gotten into his bloodstream via the scratch on his eye?

A. Creosote is a substance consisting of many different chemicals. It is produced from burning certain woods, coal, or the creosote bush. Coal tar creosote is used medicinally in certain dermatologic medicines, and in such items as insect repellent.

Industrially the products are most commonly used as wood preservatives. Ingestion of such products will cause burning to the affected tissues which could include the skin, eye, mouth, and intestinal tract. Long-term exposure has an association with some types of cancer. Exposure from brief contact and small amount is unlikely to cause a significant level in the bloodstream.



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