Phenolic compounds were among the earliest germicides used in Healthcare after World War II. They were introduced as an alternative to chlorine. They are active against vegetative bacteria and lipid-containing viruses and, when properly formulated, also shows activity against mycobacteria. They are not sporicidal. Many phenolic products are used for the decontamination of environmental surfaces and some (e.g. triclosan and chloroxylenol) are among the more commonly used antiseptics. Some phenolic compounds are sensitive to and may be inactivated by water hardness and, therefore, must be diluted with distilled or deionized water. Phenolic compounds are not recommended for use on food contact surfaces and in areas with young children. They may be absorbed by rubber and can also penetrate the skin, removing the pigment in the skin. Residual film can build up from usage, and they are not recommended around infants.

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