The following information has been extracted from our CHEMINFO database, which also contains hazard control and regulatory information. [More about...] [Sample Record]

Access the complete CHEMINFO database by contacting CCOHS Client Services.


CHEMINFO Record Number: 718
CCOHS Chemical Name: Benzyl alcohol

Benzoyl alcohol
Phenylmethyl alcohol

Chemical Name French: Alcool benzylique
Chemical Name Spanish: Alcohol bencilico
CAS Registry Number: 100-51-6
RTECS Number(s): DN3150000
EU EINECS/ELINCS Number: 202-859-9
Chemical Family: Aryl substituted alcohol / aralkyl alcohol / phenyl substituted alcohol / phenyl substituted methanol / benzyl alcohol
Molecular Formula: C7-H8-O
Structural Formula: C6H5-CH2-OH


Appearance and Odour:
Colourless liquid; pleasant, fruity odour.

Odour Threshold:
5.5 ppm (22)

Warning Properties:
Insufficient information available for evaluation.

Commercial benzyl alcohol may contain small quantities of benzaldehyde, dibenzyl ether and hydroquinone monomethyl ether as impurities. Benzyl alcohol occurs naturally in plant oils.(1)

Uses and Occurrences:
The main use of benzyl alcohol is as an additive in the textile dyeing industry. It is also used in the manufacture of other benzyl compounds such as benzyl esters and ethers; as a solvent for lacquers, gelatin, casein, shellac, inks, dyes, cellulose esters and waxes. It is an ingredient in perfumes, food flavourings, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals (e.g. ointments, cough syrups) and soaps; used for heat-sealing polyethylene films; photographic development of colour movie films; preservative; bacteriostat in pharmaceuticals.(1,18,22)


Colourless liquid with a pleasant, fruity odour. COMBUSTIBLE LIQUID AND VAPOUR. Mild central nervous system depressant. High mist concentrations may cause headache, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, incoordination and confusion. Causes eye irritation. Aspiration hazard. Swallowing or vomiting of the liquid may result in aspiration into the lungs. Skin contact may cause non-allergic hives, itchiness and a skin rash in some people.


Effects of Short-Term (Acute) Exposure

Benzyl alcohol does not readily form a vapour at room temperature. However, vapour or mist can probably cause irritation of the nose and throat. High concentrations of mist can probably cause headache, nausea, dizziness and drowsiness (symptoms of central nervous system depression).
There is no specific information available for benzyl alcohol, but related alcohols can cause these effects.

Skin Contact:
Benzyl alcohol is a very mild skin irritant. Application of 0.05 mL benzyl alcohol in 32% acetone to 50 volunteers for 48 hours only resulted in mild irritation.(6) Slight to no irritation has been reported in animal studies.
Skin contact with benzyl alcohol may cause hives, itchiness and a skin rash in some people. The symptoms appear shortly after exposure and disappear within a few hours. This reaction, although similar to an allergic reaction, is not considered an immune response.(30) There are a few case reports of skin sensitization developing following exposure to benzyl alcohol, but it is not considered an occupational skin sensitizer. See "Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure" for additional information.
Benzyl alcohol exhibits a strong anesthetic effect when applied directly to the skin.(11) It can be absorbed through the skin but this route of exposure is not expected to contribute significantly to overall exposure.(13)

Eye Contact:
Benzyl alcohol is a severe eye irritant. A saline solution, containing 2% benzyl alcohol, used during cataract surgery caused severe irritation of the eye. Subsequent follow-up determined that the irritating component of the solution was benzyl alcohol. Complete recovery occurred within two weeks.(16) In addition, one animal study showed severe irritation.

No human information is available. However, ingested benzyl alcohol can probably cause central nervous system (CNS) depression with effects resembling "alcohol" intoxication (headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting and incoordination). In severe cases, unconsciousness and coma may occur. Benzyl alcohol has caused CNS depression in animal studies and other alcohols are known to cause CNS depression.
Although there are no case reports, benzyl alcohol can probably be aspirated based on its physical properties (viscosity and surface tension) and the fact that, in general, alkyl alcohols can be aspirated. Aspiration is the inhalation of a material into the lungs during ingestion or vomiting. This may result in severe lung irritation, damage to the lung tissues, and perhaps respiratory failure and death.

Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure

Skin Sensitization:
There is insufficient information available to conclude that benzyl alcohol is a skin sensitizer.
One man who worked with glue and another who worked with cutting oil developed symptoms of sensitization. Patch tests showed a positive allergic response to benzyl alcohol, as well as other components of the products being used.(3,4) One of 200 patients tested positive to benzyl alcohol during standard patch testing.(5) Only 1/2261 and 0/1934 patients tested positive to 5% benzyl alcohol in standard patch tests.(17) In a maximization test, a 10% solution did not cause sensitization in 25 volunteers.(19)
Benzyl alcohol has produced sensitization in guinea pigs (2,20), but there is insufficient information available to conclude that benzyl alcohol is a skin sensitizer.


There is no human information. Benzyl alcohol was not carcinogenic in a National Toxicology Program (NTP) study on rats and mice.(1)

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has not evaluated the carcinogenicity of this chemical.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has no listing for this chemical.

The US National Toxicology Program (NTP) has not listed this chemical in its report on carcinogens.

Teratogenicity and Embryotoxicity:
There is no human information. Benzyl alcohol caused slight toxic effects in the offspring of mice at a dose which also caused significant maternal toxicity.(12)

Reproductive Toxicity:
No human or animal information is available.

No human or animal in vivo studies are available. In general, human and animal cultured cell tests were negative.

Toxicologically Synergistic Materials:
Alcohols may interact synergistically with chlorinated solvents (e.g. carbon tetrachloride), aromatic hydrocarbons (e.g. xylene) or dithiocarbamates (e.g. disulfirams).

Potential for Accumulation:
Benzyl alcohol does not accumulate. It is readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and rapidly broken down to benzoic acid which is metabolized and excreted as hippuric acid in the urine. Within 6 hours of ingesting 1.5 g benzyl alcohol, human subjects eliminated 75% to 85% of the dose in the urine as hippuric acid.(18)


If symptoms are experienced, remove source of contamination or move victim to fresh air. Obtain medical advice immediately.

Skin Contact:
Avoid direct contact. Wear chemical protective clothing, if necessary. As quickly as possible, flush with lukewarm, gently flowing water for at least 5 minutes, or until the chemical is removed. Under running water, remove contaminated clothing, shoes and leather goods (e.g. watchbands, belts). Obtain medical attention immediately. Completely decontaminate or discard contaminated clothing, shoes and leather goods.

Eye Contact:
Avoid direct contact. Wear chemical protective gloves, if necessary. Immediately flush the contaminated eye(s) with lukewarm, gently flowing water for 20 minutes, or until the chemical is removed, while holding the eyelid(s) open. Take care not to rinse contaminated water into the unaffected eye or onto the face. Obtain medical attention immediately.

Never give anything by mouth if victim is rapidly losing consciousness, is unconscious or convulsing. DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING. Have victim drink 240 to 300 mL (8 to 10 oz.) of water. If vomiting occurs naturally, have victim lean forward to reduce risk of aspiration. Repeat administration of water. If breathing has stopped, trained personnel should begin artificial respiration (AR) or, if the heart has stopped, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately (avoid mouth-to-mouth contact). Obtain medical attention immediately.

First Aid Comments:
Provide general supportive measures (comfort, warmth, rest). Consult a doctor and/or the nearest Poison Control Centre for all exposures except minor instances of inhalation or skin contact. All first aid procedures should be periodically reviewed by a doctor familiar with the material and its conditions of use in the workplace.


Flash Point:
93 deg C (200 deg F) (closed cup) (21)

Lower Flammable (Explosive) Limit (LFL/LEL):
Not available

Upper Flammable (Explosive) Limit (UFL/UEL):
Not available

Autoignition (Ignition) Temperature:
436 deg C (817 deg F) (21)

Sensitivity to Mechanical Impact:
Insufficient information. Probably not sensitive, since it is a stable material.

Sensitivity to Static Charge:
Will not accumulate static charge. The electrical conductivity of alcohols is high. Probably not sensitive, since it has a high flash point.

Fire Hazard Summary:
Combustible liquid. Can form explosive mixtures with air at, or above 93 deg C.

Extinguishing Media:
Dry chemical powder, carbon dioxide, alcohol foam, polymer foam, water spray or fog. Water or foam may cause frothing. (21)

Fire Fighting Instructions:
Evacuate area and fight fire from a safe distance or a protected location. Approach fire from upwind to avoid hazardous vapours and toxic decomposition products.
Water spray or fog can be used to extinguish fires involving benzyl alcohol, since it can be cooled below its flash point. Water or foam may cause frothing. However, a water spray or fog that is gently applied to the surface of the liquid, preferably with a fine spray of fog nozzle, will cause frothing that will blanket and extinguish the fire.
Water can be used as a spray or fog to absorb heat and protect exposed material of structures. If a leak or spill has not ignited, use water spray in large quantities to disperse the vapours and to protect personnel attempting to stop a leak. Water spray may be use to flush spills away from ignition sources. Solid streams of water may be ineffective and spread material.

Protection of Fire Fighters:
Benzyl alcohol and its decomposition products may be hazardous to health. Firefighters may enter the area if positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus (MSHA/NIOSH approved or equivalent) and full Bunker Gear is worn.


NFPA - Health: 1 - Exposure would cause significant irritation, but only minor residual injury.
NFPA - Flammability: 1 - Must be preheated before ignition can occur.
NFPA - Instability: 0 - Normally stable, even under fire conditions, and not reactive with water.


Molecular Weight: 108.13

Conversion Factor:
1 ppm = 4.41 mg/m3; 1 mg/m3 = 0.227 ppm at 25 deg C (calculated)

Physical State: Liquid
Melting Point: -15 deg C (5 deg F) (23)
Boiling Point: 206 deg C (402.8 deg F) (23)
Relative Density (Specific Gravity): 1.045 at 20 deg C (water = 1) (22)
Solubility in Water: Moderately soluble (3.5 g/100 mL at 20 deg C) (23)
Solubility in Other Liquids: Soluble in all proportions in ethyl alcohol, diethyl ether and chloroform; soluble in acetone and benzene (1,22)
Coefficient of Oil/Water Distribution (Partition Coefficient): Log P(oct) = 1.10 (22,23)
pH Value: A solution in water is neutral to litmus (22)
Viscosity-Dynamic: 5.8 centipoises (5.8 mPa.s) at 20 deg C (22)
Surface Tension: 39.0 dynes/cm at 20 deg C (22)
Vapour Density: 3.72 (air = 1) (22)
Vapour Pressure: 0.02 kPa (0.15 mm Hg) at 25 deg C (22)
Saturation Vapour Concentration: 200 ppm at 25 deg C (calculated)
Evaporation Rate: Not available
Critical Temperature: 403 deg C (757 deg F) (22)
Critical Pressure: 4560 kPa (45 atmospheres) (22)


Normally stable. It slowly oxidizes to benzaldehyde and benzoic acid. (22)

Hazardous Polymerization:
Does not occur

Incompatibility - Materials to Avoid:

NOTE: Chemical reactions that could result in a hazardous situation (e.g. generation of flammable or toxic chemicals, fire or detonation) are listed here. Many of these reactions can be done safely if specific control measures (e.g. cooling of the reaction) are in place. Although not intended to be complete, an overview of important reactions involving common chemicals is provided to assist in the development of safe work practices.

OXIDIZING AGENTS (e.g., perchlorates, nitrates) - Increased risk of fire or explosion.(22)
ACIDS - contamination with acidic constituents (e.g. hydrogen bromide) and dissolved iron can cause an exothermic polymerization above 100 deg C. Bases inhibit the polymerization reaction.(21,24)
SULFURIC ACID - a mixture of benzyl alcohol with 58% sulfuric acid decomposed explosively at 180 deg C.(24)

Hazardous Decomposition Products:
None reported

Conditions to Avoid:
Temperatures above 93 deg C.

Corrosivity to Metals:
Probably not corrosive at room temperature. Corrosive to iron, steel and aluminum when heated.(25)

Stability and Reactivity Comments:
Attacks many plastics and coatings.(22)


LD50 (oral, rat): 1230 mg/kg (14)
LD50 (oral, mouse): 1580 mg/kg (25% in corn oil) (14)
LD50 (oral, rabbit): 1040 mg/kg (8)

LD50 (dermal, guinea pig): less than 5250 mg/kg (reported as less than 5 mL/kg) (19, unconfirmed)

Eye Irritation:

Application of 0.5 ml of a 5% solution resulted in severe irritation in rabbits.(7)

Skin Irritation:

Application of 0.1 g of pure benzyl alcohol to rabbits and guinea pigs for 24 hours resulted in moderate irritation in rabbits and no irritation in guinea pigs. Application of 0.05 g of pure benzyl alcohol to miniature swine for 48 hours resulted in no irritation.(6) Application of 0.01 ml undiluted benzyl alcohol for 24 hours resulted in slight irritation in rabbits.(7)

Effects of Short-Term (Acute) Exposure:

High oral or inhalation exposures cause central nervous system depression which can result in death.

No rats exposed to saturated vapours (concentration not provided) for 2 hours died. Three of six rats exposed to 1000 ppm for 8 hours died within 14 days.(7) No further details are available but the saturation vapour concentration for benzyl alcohol is 200 ppm. Therefore, this information is inconsistent with the known physical properties.

Skin Contact:
Benzyl alcohol (4 micrograms) in lotion was applied to the skin of monkeys for 24 hours. Approximately 30% of the applied dose was absorbed through uncovered skin.(15)

Rats and mice were dosed orally with 125, 250, 500, 1000, and 2000 mg/kg benzyl alcohol for 16 days. All animals exposed to 2,000 mg/kg died. 5/10 rats and 3/5 mice died at 1000 mg/kg. Signs of central nervous system depression and internal bleeding were observed in rats at the two highest doses. Lethargy was observed at 500 mg/kg and above in mice. At 1000 and 2000 mg/kg, blood was found in the bladders of mice at necropsy. The lowest doses (125 or 250 mg/kg) resulted in no significant effects.(1)

Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure:

Rats and mice were exposed orally to 50, 100, 200, 400 and 800 mg/kg for 13 weeks. Signs of central nervous system depression (staggering, laboured breathing and lethargy), bleeding around the mouth and nose and cellular changes in the brain, thymus, skeletal muscle and kidneys were produced at the highest dose in rats. Signs of central nervous system depression (staggering) were also observed in the high-dose mice. No treatment-related cellular effects were noted in mice.(1) Rats and mice were exposed to 200 or 400 mg/kg (rats), or 400 or 800 mg/kg (mice) 5 days/week for 2 years. There were no significant changes in body weight or clinical signs observed in either species.(1)

Skin Sensitization:
Benzyl alcohol has produced sensitization in guinea pigs (2,20), but there is insufficient information available to conclude that benzyl alcohol is a skin sensitizer.
Skin sensitization to benzyl alcohol (special grade) was evaluated in female guinea pigs using a modified cumulative contact enhancement test, which combined Freund's Complete Adjuvant (FCA) intradermal injections with 24-hour occlusive patch sensitization. Positive results were obtained in some of 14 tests conducted (varying the combination and numbers of FCA injections and 24-hour occlusive patches).(2) However, there are insufficient details reported in this study to determine how many animals showed positive responses. Benzyl alcohol is considered a weak sensitizer. In another study, benzyl alcohol was tested for skin sensitization in guinea pigs using the open cutaneous test (OET), the Draize test (DT), the maximization test (MT) and a test with Freund's Complete Adjuvant (FCAT). Positive results were obtained in the OET and FCAT tests.(20) However, there is insufficient information provided in this report to determine how many animals tested positively.

In a National Toxicology Program (NTP) study, rats and mice (50/sex/species) were dosed orally with 0, 200 or 400 mg/kg (rats), or 0, 100 or 200 mg/kg (mice) for 103 weeks. There was no evidence of carcinogenicity found in either species.(1)

Teratogenicity, Embryotoxicity and/or Fetotoxicity:
Benzyl alcohol caused toxicity in the offspring of mice at a dose that also resulted in significant maternal toxicity.
Mice were exposed orally to 750 mg/kg/day on days 6-13 of gestation. There were significant signs of maternal toxicity (19 died). There were also slight, but statistically significant, effects noted in the offspring, as evidenced by a slight decrease in newborn body weight and reduced weight gain during the first three days after birth.(12)

No in vivo mutagenicity tests were located.
In general, human and animal cultured cell tests have been negative. However, mutations were seen in Chinese hamster ovary cells in the presence, but not absence, of a metabolic activation system.(1) Results from bacterial test systems (Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis and 4 strains of Salmonella typhimurium, with and without metabolic activation) have largely been negative.(1,9,10,13)


Selected Bibliography:
(1) Dieter, M.P. Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of benzyl alcohol in F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice (gavage studies). National Toxicology Program, US Department of Health and Human Services, June 1989
(2) Kashima, R., et al. Studies of new short-period method for delayed contact hypersensitivity assay in the guinea pig. I. Development and comparison with other methods. Contact Dermatitis. Vol. 28 (1993). p. 235- 242
(3) Lodi, A., et al. Occupational airborne allergic contact dermatitis in parquet layers. Contact Dermatitis. Vol. 29 (1993). p. 281-282
(4) Mitchell, D., et al. Contact allergy to benzyl alcohol in a cutting oil reodorant. Contact Dermatitis. Vol. 18, no. 5 (1988). p. 301-302
(5) Nethercott, J. Results of routine patch testing of 200 patients in Toronto, Canada. Contact Dermatitis. Vol. 8 (1982). p. 389-395
(6) Motoyoshi, K., et al. Comparative studies on the irritancy of oils and synthetic perfumes to the skin of rabbit, guinea pig, rat, miniature swine and man. Cosmetics and Toiletries. Vol. 94 (Aug. 1979). p. 41-48
(7) Smyth, H.F. Jr., et al. Range-finding toxicity data: List IV. A.M.A. Archives of Industrial Health. Vol. 4 (1951). p. 119-122
(8) Graham, B.E., et al. Toxicity studies on benzyl benzoate and related benzyl compounds. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Vol. 84 (1945). p. 358-362
(9) Florin, I., et al. Screening of tobacco smoke constituents for mutagenicity using the Ames' Test. Toxicology. Vol. 18 (1980). p. 219-232
(10) Ishidate, M., et al. A comparative analysis of data on the clastogenicity of 951 substances tested in mammalian cell cultures. Mutation Research. Vol. 195 (1988). p. 151-213
(11) Macht, D.I. A pharmacological and therapeutic study of benzyl alcohol as a local anesthetic. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Vol. 11 (1919). p. 263-279
(12) Hardin, B.D., et al. Evaluation of 60 chemicals in a preliminary developmental toxicity test. Teratogenesis, Carcinogenesis, and Mutagenesis. Vol. 7 (1987). p. 29-48
(13) Lington, A.W., et al. Alcohols. In: Patty's industrial hygiene and toxicology. 4th ed. Vol. II, Part D. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1994. p. 2704-2707
(14) Jenner, P.M., et al. Food flavourings and compounds of related structure. I. Acute oral toxicity. Food and Cosmetics Toxicology. Vol. 2 (1964). p. 327-343
(15) Bronaugh, R.L., et al. In vivo percutaneous absorption of fragrance ingredients in rhesus monkeys and humans. Food and Cosmetics Toxicology. Vol. 28, no. 5 (1990). p. 369-373
(16) Grant, W.M., et al. Toxicology of the eye. 4th ed. Charles C. Thomas, 1993. p. 217-218
(17) Mitchell, J.C., et al. Results of standard patch tests with substances abandoned. Contact Dermatitis. Vol. 8, no. 5 (1982). p. 336-337
(18) Benzyl alcohol. In: Workplace experimental exposure level guides. American Industrial Hygiene Association, 1994
(19) Opdyke D.L.J. Monographs on fragrance raw materials. Benzyl alcohol. Food and Cosmetics Toxicology. Vol. 11 (1973). p. 1011-1081
(20) Klecak, G., et al. Screening of fragrance materials for allergenicity in the guinea pig. I. Comparison of four testing methods. Journal of the Society of Cosmetics Chemistry. Vol. 28 (Feb. 1977). p. 53-64
(21) Fire protection guide to hazardous materials. 13th ed. Edited by A.B. Spencer, et al. National Fire Protection Association, 2002. NFPA 325; NFPA 491
(22) HSDB record for benzyl alcohol. Last revision date: 94/12/19
(23) Verschueren, K. Handbook of environmental data on organic chemicals. 2nd ed. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1983. p. 282-284
(24) Bretherick, L. Bretherick's handbook of reactive chemical hazards. 4th ed. Butterworths, 1990. p. 717-718, 1216
(25) Corrosion data survey: metals section. 6th ed. National Association of Corrosion Engineers, 1985. p. 20-21
(26) Forsberg, K., et al. Quick selection guide to chemical protective clothing. 4th ed. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 2002
(27) Workplace environmental exposure level guide. AIHA Journal. Vol. 56, no. 2, 1995. p. 202
(28) NIOSH pocket guide to chemial hazards. NIOSH, June 1994. p. 78-79
(29) European Economic Community. Commission Directive 93/72/EEC. Sept. 1, 1993
(30) Nair, B. Final report on the safety assessment of benzyl alcohol, benzoic acid, and sodium benzoate. International Journal ofToxicology. Vol. 20, suppl. 3 (2001). p. 23-50
(31) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Benzyl Alcohol. In: OSHA Analytical Methods Manual. Revision Date: Oct. 31, 2001. Available at: <>

Information on chemicals reviewed in the CHEMINFO database is drawn from a number of publicly available sources. A list of general references used to compile CHEMINFO records is available in the database Help.

Review/Preparation Date: 1995-05-18

Revision Indicators:
Sensitivity to static charge 1995-10-01
Handling 1995-10-01
EU class 1996-06-01
US Transport 1996-06-01
Sampling 1996-06-01
Respiratory guidelines 1996-06-01
Bibliography 2003-04-15
NFPA (health) 2003-04-15
Resistance of materials for PPE 2004-03-29
Long-term exposure 2005-01-18
Toxicological info 2005-01-18
Short-term skin contact 2005-01-18
WHMIS detailed classification 2005-01-18
WHMIS health effects 2005-01-18
Emergency overview 2005-01-18
First aid skin 2005-01-18
Handling 2005-01-28
Engineering controls 2005-01-28
Bibliography 2005-03-14
Passive Sampling Devices 2005-03-14
Sampling/analysis 2005-03-14

©2007 Canadian  Centre  for  Occupational  Health  &  Safety  E-mail:  Fax: (905) 572-2206  Phone: (905) 572-2981  
Mail:  250  Main  Street  East,  Hamilton  Ontario  L8N  1H6