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Either of two entirely different substances, distilled from coal tar or wood tar. Coal-tar creosote is a complex mixture of organic compounds, largely hydrocarbons. It is a cheap water-insoluble wood preservative used for railroad ties, telephone poles, and marine pier pilings and as a disinfectant, fungicide, and biocide. Wood-tar creosote consists mainly of phenols and related compounds and was once widely used for pharmaceutical purposes.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on creosote, visit Britannica.com.