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Benzyl Alcohol

    Synonyms:  Alcohol benzylicus; benzenemethanol; a-hydroxytoluene; phenylcarbinol; phenylmethanol; a-toluenol.

    Description: A clear, colorless, oily liquid with a faint aromatic odor and a sharp, burning taste.

    Chemical Name: Benzenemethanol

    Antimicrobial preservative; disinfectant; solvent.

    • Benzyl alcohol is an antimicrobial preservative used in cosmetics, foods, and a wide range of pharmaceutical formulations, including oral and parenteral preparations, at concentrations up to 2.0% v/v.

    • The typical concentration used is 1% v/v, and it has been reported to be used in protein, peptide and small molecule products, although its frequency of use has fallen from 48 products in 1996, 30 products in 2001, to 15 products in 2006

    • Although widely used as an antimicrobial preservative, benzyl alcohol has been associated with some fatal adverse reactions when administered to neonates.

    • It is now recommended that parenteral products preserved with benzyl alcohol, or other antimicrobial preservatives, should not be used in newborn infants if at all possible

    Benzyl alcohol is incompatible with oxidizing agents and strong acids. It can also accelerate the autoxidation of fats. Although antimicrobial activity is reduced in the presence of nonionic surfactants, such as polysorbate 80, the reduction is less than is the case with hydroxybenzoate esters or quaternary ammonium compounds. Benzyl alcohol is incompatible with methylcellulose and is only slowly sorbed by closures composed of natural rubber, neoprene, and butyl rubber closures, the resistance of which can be enhanced by coating with fluorinated polymers.

    Benzyl alcohol is used in a wide variety of pharmaceutical formulations. It is metabolized to benzoic acid, which is further metabolized in the liver by conjugation with glycine to form hippuric acid, which is excreted in the urine. Ingestion or inhalation of benzyl alcohol may cause headache, vertigo, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Overexposure may result in CNS depression and respiratory failure. However, the concentrations of benzyl alcohol normally employed as a preservative are not associated with such adverse effects

    Observe normal precautions appropriate to the circumstances and quantity of material handled. Benzyl alcohol (liquid and vapor) is irritant to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Eye protection, gloves, and protective clothing are recommended. Benzyl alcohol should be handled in a well-ventilated environment; a selfcontained breathing apparatus is recommended in areas of poor ventilation. Benzyl alcohol is flammable.