Re: Chloroform spills

From:"J. A. Kiernan" <>

  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

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