Chloroform Safety Message

From:Miriam Schroeder <>

I don't think this has anything to do with the
chloroform explosion, but I just thought I'd pass
along this safety message we got quite some time back
from our Health & Safety Dept.:
-Miriam Schroeder

(Forwarded text):

Originator: Occupational Safety, Lockheed Martin Idaho
Technologies Company \
Contact: Dave Quigley, (208) 526-0046
Authorized Derivative Classifier: Dale Claflin, (208)
Reviewing Official: Dale Claflin, (208) 526-1199

Functional Categories (DOE): Occupational Safety and
Health, Safety Functional Categories (User-Defined):
Occupational Safety and Health Key
Word(s): chloroform, phosgene, amylene
References: Chemical & Engineering News, March 2, 1998

Title: YELLOW - Phosgene Generated from Chloroform

Identifier: INEEL Lessons Learned # 98247
Date: May 25,1998

Lessons Learned Statement:

Phosgene can be generated from chloroform.  Chloroform
stabilized with alcohol should be purchased, and the
chemical should be treated as time-sensitive.  An
industrial hygienist should be contacted before using
a container of chloroform that is six months old or

Discussion of Activities:

Researchers at the University of California, Los
Angeles were using a three-year-old bottle of
chloroform.  They noticed that the people working with
the chloroform were becoming quite ill.  Subsequent
analysis showed concentrations of 15,000 ppm of
phosgene in the head space of the bottle and a 1.1%
concentration of phosgene in the bulk solution. 
Exposure to 20 ppm for 1-2 minutes can cause severe
lung injury and 570 ppm for 1 minute can cause death. 
The chloroform was stored properly and was stabilized
with amylene. (Note: Chloroform comes in three basic
varieties: a) no stabilizer present, b) stabilized
with amylene, and c) stabilized with an alcohol such
as ethanol.)

A search of the literature has shown that the
generation of phosgene from chloroform was a
well-known phenomenon 50-100 years ago when chloroform
was used as an anaesthetic.  Evidently, the generation
of phosgene from chloroform has since been forgotten
since there are no warnings on material safety data
sheets for chloroform, including chloroform that has
not been stabilized.

Recommended Actions:

1. Unless program requirements prohibit it, chloroform
that is stabilized with alcohol should be purchased in
the future.  Alcohol is usually added in greater
concentrations than amylene so it provides better
protection from phosgene generation.  Also, there is
evidence that amylene may not prevent phosgene

2. Chloroform should be treated as a time-sensitive
chemical.  This is especially true of chloroform that
is either not stabilized or is stabilized with

3. An industrial hygienist should be contacted before
using a container of chloroform that is six months old
or older so that they can test for the presence of

Follow-up Action: Information in this report is
accurate to the best of our knowledge. As a means of
measuring the effectiveness of this report, please
notify Terry Pierce at (208) 526-4288 (or by
electronic mail at or the INEEL Lessons
Learned Program Office at (208) 526-1530 (e-mail at or of any action taken
as a result of this report or of any technical
inaccuracies you find. Your feedback is important and

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