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Cloroform

What is chloroform?

Chloroform is also known as trichloromethane or methyltrichloride. It is a colorless liquid with a pleasant, nonirritating odor and a slightly sweet taste. Chloroform enters the environment from chemical companies and paper mills. It is also found in waste water from sewage treatment plants and drinking water to which chlorine has been added. Chlorine is added to most drinking water and many waste water to destroy bacteria. Small amounts of chloroform are formed as an unwanted product during the process of adding chlorine to water. 

How might I be exposed to chloroform?

Most people are exposed to chloroform in food, drinking water and indoor air.
You could be exposed to chloroform through:

  • Breathing air with chloroform for a short time causes headache, fatigue and dizziness. Breathing air with chloroform for a long period damages the brain, liver and kidneys. It may cause cancer.
  • Drinking water with chloroform over a long period damages the liver and kidneys. It may cause cancer.
  • Eating food with chloroform in it over a long period damages the liver and kidneys. It may cause cancer.
  • Touching liquid chloroform causes sores and skin irritation. It may cause cancer.

How does chloroform work and how can it affect my health?

Exposure to chloroform is harmful. Chloroform damages the liver, causing hepatitis, and it can also harm the kidneys, brain, heart and bone marrow. Respiratory injuries from chloroform exposure include respiratory depression, pneumonitis and pulmonary edema. Chloroform, which is toxic to the central nervous system, can cause a person to become unconsciousness and even be fatal at high doses. It has not been found to harm a fetus.