Journal of forensic sciences

Distribution of phenol in a fatal poisoning case determined by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.

PMID 9729832


A victim who was presumed to have ingested waste fluid containing phenol of DNA extraction was found dead in his laboratory. The skin was partially chemically burned, with blisters as maps. No mechanical injuries were observed. The pathological findings of the liver and kidney were typical of those of acute substantial poisoning. Phenol concentrations in the blood, urine, stomach contents and organs were determined by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Phenol was distributed throughout the body. The concentration of free phenol in the blood was found to be 60 micrograms/mL, and in the urine it was 208 micrograms/mL. The phenol concentrations in the organs were found as follows: 106 micrograms/g in the brain; 116 micrograms/g in the lungs; 166 micrograms/g in the liver, and 874 micrograms/g in the kidney, respectively. Significantly high concentrations were observed in the kidney, urine, and liver. To the best of our knowledge, such an intoxication through this kind of ingestion has never been reported before. Distributions of phenol in fatal poisonings have been reported, but colorimetry was used as the analytical method and it cannot exclude the interference of other phenolic compounds.