Pentachlorophenol Occupational Exposures

Pentachlorophenol Occupational Exposures


Occupational exposure to pentachlorophenol occurs via dermal contact with the compound while treating wood products, or by inhaling contaminated workplace air (i.e. during production or use of PCP).[1,2]


One study found that dermal contact accounted for 95% of total worker exposure in sawmills.[3]

CAREX Canada estimates that approximately 4,300 Canadians are exposed to PCP in their workplaces. The largest industrial groups exposed are farming, electrical power generation and transmission, and wood preservation facilities, respectively. The largest occupational groups exposed to pentachlorophenol are farmers and farm workers, followed by electrical power line and cable workers.

Prevalence Estimate

Results show that approximately 4,300 Canadians are occupationally exposed to pentachlorophenol (PCP); 81% of these workers are male. The largest industrial groups exposed are farming (where PCP is encountered via the handling of fence posts), power generation and transmission, and wood preservation facilities.

Results are similar when exposure is examined by occupation, the largest exposed groups are farmers and farm workers (2,300 exposed) and electrical power line and cable workers (1,000 exposed).

Workers exposed to pentachlorophenol by industry

Workers exposed to pentachlorophenol by region

Click the second tab to view total number of workers exposed.

* = < 50 workers
Methods and Data

Our Occupational Approach page outlines the general approach used to calculate prevalence and exposure level estimates for workplace exposures.

Data Sources

Data used in developing the occupational estimates for pentachlorophenol (PCP) were collected from several sources:

  1. The Canadian Workplace Exposure Database (CWED) contains approximately 500 measurements for PCP exposure. These measurements were collected during the years 1981 to 2004 in Ontario and British Columbia workplaces.
  2. Canadian and US scientific peer reviewed publications that addressed PCP exposure in Canada and the United States.
  3. Grey literature including technical reports from governments and international bodies.

Prevalence Estimate Method

CAREX defines exposure to PCP as inhalation or dermal exposure at work to levels likely to exceed non-occupational exposure.

To determine the number of workers potentially exposed to PCP at work, CAREX occupational exposure experts used methods previously established in other peer-reviewed CAREX projects in Europe. A series of steps were taken to assign exposure proportions to occupations and industries at risk of exposure to PCP.


1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Toxicological Profile for Pentachlorophenol (2001)
2. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Working Group. IARC Monographs, Volume 117: Pentachlorophenol and Some Related Compounds (2019)
3. Fenske RA, Horstman SW, Bentley RK. “Assessment of dermal exposure to chlorophenols in timber mills.” Applied Industrial Hygiene 1987;2:143-147.

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