Cleaning up chloroform spills

From:Gayle Callis <>

I guess I could answer that it is my life and a respect for other people in
harms way.   I do not want to breathe nor expose others to chloroform
spills, particularly if as large as was described recently,but even a
smaller bottle nor continuous exposure to this carcinogen is acceptable.   

As for chemical safety personnel cleaning up, they are EQUIPPED to do so,
with proper ventilators, etc. I could not clean up a large spill with any
safe, efficient, adequate means, so they can do their job, use the fans,
open doors, and clean up broken glass (I doubt they would leave it there as
a discourtesy!)        

As for opening up windows, that isn't an option since my lab has NO

As far as smelling chloroform goes, I find it pleasing.  So it comes down
to a matter of choice in the long run, let safety clean it up or expose
myself to a good dose of toxic fumes. I chose to abide by our chem safety
office rules and let them do toxic spill control.  

>Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2000 11:17:44 -0400 (EDT)
>From: "J. A. Kiernan" <>
>To: Gayle Callis <>
>CC: Histonet <>
>Subject: Re: Chloroform spills
>  Any liquid that evaporates can break its bottle if enough pressure
>  builds up inside. That's why a glass bottle of ethyl alcohol is
>  filled only to about 3/4 full. Chloroform (boils at 61C) is more
>  volatile than ethanol (78C), so this accident is to be expected
>  occasionally. Probably there has to be some subtle crack in the  
>  glass that cannot be seen.
>On Wed, 11 Oct 2000, Gayle Callis wrote:
>> We would have evacuated the WHOLE lab (building), called chemical safety
>> from a safe place (away from all fumes), and they would have cleaned up
>> this highly toxic carcinogen ...
>  Isn't this taking it a bit too seriously? Chloroform was used as
>  an anaesthetic for people for 100 years, especially for inducing
>  anaesthesia. (It does this more quickly than ether, which was used
>  for maintainance.) The chief risk of chloroform was cardiac arrest
>  caused by overdosage. It was found to be carcinogenic (in rats and
>  mice) in 1976, long after it had been replaced in anaesthesia by
>  halothane and methoxyflurane. A little chloroform was included in
>  cough mixtures (to provide a "medicinal" flavour) as recently
>  as the 1960s.
>  What can the chemical safety people do about a few litres of
>  spilled chloroform, other than open a window and wait 10 or perhaps
>  20 minutes for it to evaporate and blow away? Chloroform is not
>  inflammable. The real danger is from the broken glass, but
>  are safety experts needed to sweep that up? 
> John A. Kiernan,
> Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology,
> The University of Western Ontario,
> LONDON,  Canada  N6A 5C1
Gayle Callis
Veterinary Molecular Biology
Montana State University
Bozeman MT 59717-3610
406 994-4705
406 994-4303

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