Toxicological reviews

Pentachlorophenol poisoning.

PMID 14579543


Despite being banned in many countries and having its use severely restricted in others, pentachlorophenol (PCP) remains an important pesticide from a toxicological perspective. It is a stable and persistent compound. In humans it is readily absorbed by ingestion and inhalation but is less well absorbed dermally. Its distribution is limited, its metabolism extensive and it is eliminated only slowly. Assessment of the toxicity of PCP is confounded by the presence of contaminants known to cause effects identical to those attributed to PCP. However, severe exposure by any route may result in an acute and occasionally fatal illness that bears all the hallmarks of being mediated by uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation. Tachycardia, tachypnoea, sweating, altered consciousness, hyperthermia, convulsions and early onset of marked rigor (if death occurs) are the most notable features. Pulmonary oedema, intravascular haemolysis, pancreatitis, jaundice and acute renal failure have been reported. There is no antidote and no adequate data to support the use of repeat-dose oral cholestyramine, forced diuresis or urine alkalinisation as effective methods of enhancing PCP elimination in poisoned humans. Supportive care and vigorous management of hyperthermia should produce a satisfactory outcome. Chronic occupational exposure to PCP may produce a syndrome similar to acute systemic poisoning, together with conjunctivitis and irritation of the upper respiratory and oral mucosae. Long-term exposure has also been reported to result in chronic fatigue or neuropsychiatric features in combination with skin infections (including chloracne), chronic respiratory symptoms, neuralgic pains in the legs, and impaired fertility and hypothyroidism secondary to endocrine disruption. PCP is a weak mutagen but the available data for humans are insufficient to classify it more strongly than as a probable carcinogen.