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Is a black liquid derived from coal tar...

 It is used to treat timber against fungus (dry rot) and termite (white ant) attack. Creosote contains a mixture of phenolic compounds which kill most living organisms. See also Phenols.

Health effects
Creosote is both corrosive and a probable carcinogenic. It attacks and irritates the skin. Prolonged and repeated contact can induce skin cancer. It also sensitises the skin to sunlight. Protective clothing should be worn when applying it. Any splashes should be quickly and thoroughly washed off with soap and water followed by methylated spirits.

Environmental effects
Creosote damages and discolours any vegetation it contacts. It stains timber black, and it has an unpleasant tarry smell which disappears after some weeks. It may persist in the soil for many years.

Creosote is less hazardous than some other wood preservatives and a version of creosote, called pigmented emulsified creosote (PEC) or Cleansote, has been developed and is of low toxicity. For other alternatives, see Wood preservatives.