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Water: Human Health

Human Health Criteria - Phenol

Current Criteria for Phenol

Fact Sheet; EPA 822-F-009-001; May 2009

We have published current national recommended water quality criteria for the protection of human health for phenol. These updated criteria are based on EPA's Methodology for Deriving Ambient Water Quality Criteria for the Protection of Human Health (2000 Human Health Methodology) (EPA-822-B-00-004) and supersedes prior recommended criteria for this chemical.

What are human health water quality criteria?

Human health water quality criteria are numeric values that protect human health from the harmful effects of pollutants in surface water. Under section 304(a) of the Clean Water Act, water quality criteria are based solely on data and scientific judgments about the relationship between pollutant concentrations and environmental and human health effects; economic or social impacts do not influence criteria recommendations.

EPA's national recommended water quality criteria provide guidance to states and authorized tribes in adopting water quality criteria that meet the requirements of the CWA. The criteria are not regulations themselves and do not impose legally binding requirements on EPA, states, territories, authorized tribes or the public.

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How did EPA update the water quality criteria?

EPA revised the human health water quality criteria based on the Agency's 2000 Human Health Methodology. This methodology incorporates significant scientific advances made in the last two decades, particularly in the areas of cancer and noncancer risk assessments, exposure assessments, and methodologies to estimate bioaccumulation in fish.

The updated water quality criteria integrate new reference doses for acrolein and phenol. These values have already been published in the Agency's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). The criteria were published in draft format in the Federal Register [Revision of National Recommended Water Quality Criteria for Acrolein and Phenol (73 FR 53246; September 15, 2008)]. Scientific views on the criteria revisions were accepted for 45 days. No scientific views were submitted to EPA by the public.

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What are the updated human health water quality criteria?

The following tables present the updated final criteria values and the reference doses used to derive the respective criteria values:


Updated Final Criterion
IRIS RfD 0.30 mg/(kg-d) (published 9/02)
Water + Organisms 10,000 µg/l
Organisms Only 860,000 µg/l

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Where can I find more information on the updated and final human health water quality criteria?

For more information, contact Heidi L. Bethel (bethel.heidi@epa.gov), Health and Ecological Criteria Division (4304T), U.S. EPA, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20460; (202) 566-2054.

The Federal Register Notice is available (June 10, 2009) and EPA has established an official public docket for this action under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2008-0553.

A table containing all of EPA's updated national recommended water quality criteria is also available.

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