Health hazards of creosote include serious skin irritation or rashes, burns on the eye, convulsions and mental confusion, unconsciousness or death due to coal tar creosote exposure in large quantities, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Exposure can cause scrotum and skin cancers. Other hazards include stomach pain and burning throat and mouth from consuming creosote-contaminated food and water, and kidney or liver damage from creosote bush leaves, an ingredient in some herbal remedies.
Direct contact with skin or vapor exposure to low levels of coal tar creosote can lead to increased sunlight sensitivity and damaged corneas and skin, notes the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. There is a relationship between extended exposure to coal tar creosote and chimney sweeps developing scrotum cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have concluded that creosote is probably a human carcinogen.
Children living in creosote-contaminated areas can suffer poisoning if they swallow the substance intentionally or unintentionally, explains the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Unsuspecting children may eat dirt, or touch contaminated wood or soil and then put their hands in their mouths. More skin rashes develop in children who play on creosote-contaminated soil than in children who play in areas that are not contaminated.