Fact sheet: Phenanthrene

From: Public Services and Procurement Canada

Discover a list of a contaminant's important chemical properties, how it will react in the environment, main sources of contamination related, and a brief overview of health and safety issues.

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General information

CAS number

85-01-8

Molecular formula

C14H10

Formula weight

178.2 g/mol

Family

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)

Properties (at room temperature where applicable)

Compound properties list
ParameterValueComment
Melting/boiling point 99 °CSolid
Relative density1.18 g/cm3Sinks in water
Vapour pressure3 x 10 -4 mm HgVery low volatility
Vapour density6.14Denser than air
Solubility in water1 mg/LVery low solubility
Henry's law constant4 x 10-5 atm·m3/molModerate volatilization when dissolved
log Koc (Depending on soil or sediment characteristics)3.8 - 6.0*Strong adsorption to organic matter

Environmental behaviour

At 20 0C, phenanthrene is a solid with very low volatility. Characterized by its low to very low solubility, it will moderately volatilize once dissolved and adsorbs strongly to organic matter. When present in soil, this compound will undergo light volatilization and solubilize very slowly. Once dissolved, it will either enter into the groundwater table or drain towards a waterway, where it will be diluted before slowly volatilizing. Fragments of phenanthrene can also be carried into a waterway where they will be deposited at the bottom and very slowly dissolve. Once the source has been removed, the adsorbed phenanthrene will take a very long time to disappear, being released in its gaseous or dissolved forms. The resulting plumes (gaseous or dissolved) will be relatively small in size.

Health and safety

Phenanthrene should be handled with care, as it is toxic.

Principal resources

Phenanthrene is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). PAHs are a group of organic compounds that contain two or more benzene rings in their structure. There are more than 100 different PAHs that generally occur as complex mixtures (example, combustion by-products such as soot). Incomplete combustion of fuels in engines, during coal coking, or when wood is burning (forest fires, wood stoves) produces PAHs. PAHs are also constituents of petroleum and coal, and they are more present in some of their derivatives like tars and asphalt. The wood preservative industry (example, creosote), aluminum smelters using Soderberg electrodes, and hazardous waste disposal sites are further contributors of anthropogenic PAHs to the environment.

Phenanthrene is derived from coal tar. It has limited use in the manufacture of dyestuffs, explosives, drugs and pesticides, and in the preparation of phenanthrene derivatives. Most individual PAHs have very limited or no known uses, except as reagents in biochemical or cancer research. Phenanthrene is more likely to be found with other PAHs as mixtures in commercial products like coal tar, coal tar pitch, creosote, bitumen and asphalt. Coal tar is used as a fuel in the steel industry, distilled to give coal tar pitch and creosote, and has been used in the clinical treatment of skin disorders such as eczema and dermatitis. Coal tar pitch is used primarily as a binder for aluminum smelting electrodes, but is also used in roofing, surface coatings and a variety of other applications. Creosote is used to preserve wood for railroad ties, marine pilings and telephone poles. Some creosote products are also used as a fuel by steel production. Bitumen and asphalt are used for paving roads, for sound- and water-proofing, and coating pipes.

References

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 1995. Toxicological Profile for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Georgia, USA. (Viewed December 2013)

Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. 1999. Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). In: Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines. Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, Manitoba, Canada. (Viewed December 2013).

Montgomery, John H. 2007. Groundwater Chemicals, Desk Reference, Fourth Edition, CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, Florida, USA.

National Toxicology Program. 2005. Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition: Substance Profile of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Services, USA.(PDF, 256KB) (Viewed December 2013)

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