Chloroform

CAS RN: 67-66-3

Hazards Summary

The major hazards encountered in the use and handling of chloroform stem from its toxicologic properties. Toxic effects may be exerted from all routes of exposure (ie, ingestion, dermal, or inhalation). Aside from possible contact burns or irritation to the skin and eyes, the range of acute effects from exposure to chloroform include dizziness, headache, nausea, CNS depression, cardiac arrhythmia, and death. Chronic exposure may result in damage (sometimes fatal) to the liver and kidneys. OSHA has set the PEL at 50 ppm, while the ACGIH recommends a TLV of 10 ppm. These levels notwithstanding, contact with chloroform also should be protected against by wearing impervious clothing (PVC and rubber are not suitable), and a full facepiece self-contained breathing apparatus operated in positive pressure mode. Non-impervious clothing which becomes wet with chloroform should be promptly removed and any contaminated skin washed with soap and water. Only authorized personnel should be permitted in areas where chloroform exposure may occur. Chloroform will not ignite easily, but it may burn with the emission of highly toxic (eg, phosgene) and irritating gases. If chloroform is involved in a fire, extinguish the fire using an agent suitable for the type surrounding material. Wear protective equipment as stated above. Fire-control water should be diked, as necessary, to prevent chloroform from entering water sources and sewers. Chloroform reacts explosively with chemically-reactive metals (eg, aluminum or magnesium powder, sodium, and lithium), strong oxidizers, and strong caustics (eg, alkalis), and decomposes in sunlight. Therefore, chloroform should be stored away from such materials and in a dark, cool, dry, well-ventilated area. While chloroform has a pleasant, etheric odor, this clear, colorless liquid also has the ability to cause olfactory fatigue and, therefore, warning of its presence is not assured. For this reason, and because its decomposition by prolonged exposure to air can result in accumulation of phosgene, chloroform should be kept in tightly closed containers affixed with the label, "Poison". Containers may be transported by air, rail, road, or water. Small spills of chloroform should be absorbed with vermiculite, dry sand, or earth and collected for disposal. Large land spills should be diked (eg, with soil or sand bags) and the bulk liquid absorbed (eg, with fly ash or cement powder), or contained in an excavated pit, pond, or other holding area that has been sealed with an impermeable flexible membrane liner. Spills of chloroform in bodies of water may first need to be trapped at the bottom with sand bag barriers and treated with activated carbon. Trapped material is then removed by suction hose, mechanical lifts, or dredges. Collected chloroform is a candidate for liquid injection, rotary kiln, or fluidized bed incineration. Before implementing any plans for permanent land disposal, consult with environmental regulatory agencies.
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