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Composition and chemistry
The original Dettol liquid antiseptic and disinfectant is light yellow in colour in the concentrated form but, as several of the ingredients are insoluble in water, it produces a milky emulsion of oil droplets when diluted with water, exhibiting the ouzo effect.
The active ingredient in Dettol that confers its antiseptic property is chloroxylenol (C8H9ClO), an aromatic chemical compound. Chloroxylenol comprises 4.8% of Dettol's total admixture, with the rest made up by pine oil, isopropanol, castor oil, soap and water.
When diluted, Dettol may be used to clean cuts, wounds, etc. and to disinfect environmental surfaces such as household floors and the walls of slaughterhouses etc.
In Australia, Dettol spray has been shown to be lethal to cane toads, an invasive species that was introduced from Hawaii, as a result of bad judgment, in 1935. It had been hoped that the amphibian would control the cane beetle but it became highly destructive within the ecosystem. Spraying the disinfectant at close range has been shown to cause rapid death to toads. It is not known whether the toxins are persistent or whether they harm other Australian flora and fauna.
Owing to concerns over potential harm to other Australian wildlife species, the use of Dettol as an agent for pest control was banned in Western Australia by the Department of Environment and Conservation in 2011.
In a case report, a 42-year-old British man died from Dettol overexposure in May 2007. The autopsy was not able to conclude whether the lethal exposure to Dettol was via ingestion or inhalation. A medical study which analyzed 177 cases of Dettol intoxications via ingestion in Hong Kong concluded that ″Dettol poisoning resulted in serious complications in 7% of patients, including death".
Dettol is toxic to many animals, especially cats. Dettol contains the phenol chloroxylenol. Phenols are of particular concern because cats are unable to eliminate the toxins following ingestion. A cat may swallow the product by licking its paws after they have come into contact with it.
- Rolleston, H. (1936). British Encyclopaedia of Medical Practice, Volume 1, Anus Diseases. London: Butterworth & Co. p. 671.
- "Summary of Product Characteristics / Dettol Liquid" (PDF). MHRA. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
- Narelle Towie (23 May 2009). "Cane toad poison banned". Perth Now. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
- Lester Haines (29 May 2007). "'Dettol Man' cleans himself to death". The Register. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
- PK Lam, CK Chan, ML Tse, FL Lau (August 2012). "Dettol poisoning and the need for airway intervention" (PDF). Hong Kong Medical Journal 18 (4): 270–275. PMID 22865169. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
- Dettol | Official website UK
- Dettol | Official website Australia
- Dettol | Official website South Africa