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Chloroform, also known as trichloromethane, is a liquid that has been used in the past as an extraction solvent for fats, oils, greases, and other products; as a dry cleaning spot remover; in fire extinguishers; as a fumigant; and as an anesthetic (#EPA). It was also used in the manufacture of fluorocarbons for refrigerants, propellants, and plastics (#NTP, 1976). At present, the majority of chloroform is used to synthesize other chemicals. It is a possible Carcinogen.


Quick Facts

Name: Chloroform

Use: solvent

Source: synthetic chemistry

Recommended daily intake: none

Absorption: dermal, ingestion, inhalation

Sensitive individuals: workers

Chemical Structure

Chemical Description

Chloroform is a volatile colorless liquid that is not very soluble in water (#EPA). It is not very flammable.

Chloroform as an Anesthetic

Chloroform was discovered in 1831 and was a widely used anesthetic first employed by James Young Simpson, a professor of midwifery at Edinburgh University and doctor to Queen Victoria (#Baskerville, 1911). He used it first on himself on November 4, 1847, but it soon became clear that there were very serious side effects associated with its use, and it caused death in a number of instances (#Wawersik, 1998 and #Duffy, 2007). From 1864, numerous studies were conducted in an attempt to determine whether chloroform affected the respiratory system or the circulatory system.

Health Effects

The major health effect of chloroform is nervous system depression following acute inhalation.

Chronic exposure to chloroform is associated with effects on the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. There is little evidence that chloroform has negative effects on the reproductive system. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has listed chloroform as a possible carcinogen.

[References needed.]


Exposure to chloroform occurs mostly when breathing contaminated air and or when touching or drinking contaminated water. [Reference needed.]


Charles Baskerville. "The Chemistry of Anesthetics." Science 34(867): (Aug., 1911), pp. 161-176.

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