Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Chloroform and Death ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: Chloroform and Death
Category: Science > Chemistry
Asked by: awaiting-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 23 Mar 2005 11:25 PST
Expires: 22 Apr 2005 12:25 PDT
Question ID: 499264
How much volume (in Milli Litres (ml)) of chloroform, when given on a
handkercheif (inhalation exposure), to humans, will cause death?

What will be the effects of 100ml of Chloroform given on a
handkercheif (inhalation exposure) to humans?

Chemical Details of the solution: 
Synonyms: Trichloromethane, Methyl trichloride, Methane trichloride; 
CAS No.: 67-66-3;
Chemical Formula: CHCl3; 

Composition/Information on Ingredients:
Ingredient     CAS No      Percent 
Chloroform     67-66-3     98-100% 
Ethyl Alcohol  64-17-5     0-1%    

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 24 Mar 2005 09:01 PST
In general, deaths from chloroform over-exposure when it was used as
an anesthetic occured over a period of hours, at fairly high
concentrations with a prolonged exposure.  Exposures of less than
20,000 parts-per-million (about 2% chloroform, 98% air) are generally
considered safe.

The actual quantity of chloroform on the hanky doesn't necessarily
correspond all that well to the amount of exposure.  Other factors --
how long was the hanky in place?  Was the person exposed able to
breath in air as well as chloroform? How large a person was it? --
will have enormous bearing on what effect the chloroform has on the
individual in question.

100 ml strikes me as enough to put an adult to "sleep".  Hanky
exposure obviously isn't as well controlled as exposure during a
medical procedure, and the potential for over-exposure is thus
increased.   But if the hanky is removed after unconsciousness occurs,
and if there is no subsequent exposure to additional chloroform, I
would not expect that amount to be fatal to most people.

However, there is always the possibility of someone being especially
susceptible, and reacting more strongly than most people to the
exposure (in otherwords, a sort of acute allergic reaction to the
chloroform).  In that rare case, it could be deadly.

What other additional information would you need in order to make for
a complete answer to this question?  Let me know, and I'll see if I
can help.


Clarification of Question by awaiting-ga on 24 Mar 2005 09:28 PST
hi pafalafa-ga,

Regarding the way in which hanky was placed: The hanky was placed on
the nose and taken away. The person was able to breathe.

To give more details, the person was 23 female, weight about 125 lbs.

Forget about the hanky. Considering all the possibilities of exposure,
either inhalation, oral and skin exposure, what might be the worst
effects of 100ml of chloroform with above properties on a person as
described above?

The worst part might be, Will drinking 100 ml of chloroform lead to death? 

If possible, please give references to your answer.
Subject: Re: Chloroform and Death
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 24 Mar 2005 11:06 PST

ATSDR -- the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry --has
a very comprehensive report available on the web on just about
everything that is known about the toxic effects of chloroform.

You can find an outline of the report, along with relevant links to
its full content, at:

The chapter of most relevance is Chapter 2, "Health Effects".  I've
provided a link and some excerpts below, but to sum things up in
regards to your question:

--Drinking 100 ml of chloroform could indeed kill a person
--especially a small woman -- but there's no certainty of this.  Folks
have died from drinking doses as small as 10 ml, but have also
survived after drinking much larger amounts.

--Short of death, drinking that amount of chloroform would make a
person awfully sick, and would attack the liver, probably inducing a
case of toxic hepatitis:  weakness, jaundice, and possible long-term
liver damage. It can also induce a coma.

--Inhalation of chloroform is less likely to be deadly -- especially
if the person is breathing air at the same time -- but death can

--More likely effects of inhaling chloroform are dizziness, nausea,
disorientation, headache and possible drunken-like behavior. 
Longer-term exposure can lead to hallucinations and psychotic

Here are some of the more relevant excerpts from the Chapter I mentioned:

Ingestion of chloroform:

Information regarding mortality in humans after oral exposure to
chloroform is limited. In one report, a man died of severe hepatic
injury 9 days after reportedly drinking .6 ounces of chloroform (3,755
mg/kg) (Piersol et al. 1933). He was admitted to a hospital in a deep
coma within 15 minutes of ingestion. This man was also noted to be a
long-time user of chloroform in his occupation and a heavy drinker,
suggesting that damage inflicted by previous use of chloroform and
alcohol over a long period of time may have been contributing factors
in his death. In contrast, a patient who ingested 4 ounces (.2,410
mg/kg) recovered from toxic hepatitis (Schroeder 1965). The recovery
may have been due to better therapeutic handling of the case. Fatal
doses have been reported to be as low as 10 mL (14.8 grams) or 212
mg/kg (Schroeder 1965).

Inhalation of chloroform:

Hepatic Effects. Chloroform-induced hepatotoxicity is one of the major
toxic effects observed in both humans and animals after inhalation
exposure. Increased sulfobromophthalein retention was observed in some
patients exposed to chloroform via anesthesia (exposure 8,000-10,000
ppm), indicating impaired liver function (Smith et al. 1973). Serum
transaminase, cholesterol, total bilirubin, and alkaline phosphatase
levels were not affected. Transient jaundice has also been reported in
one study (Whitaker and Jones 1965), while several earlier studies
report acute hepatic necrosis in women exposed to chloroform via
anesthesia (exact exposure not provided) during childbirth (Lunt 1953;
Royston 1924; Townsend 1939). The effects observed in the women
included jaundice, liver enlargement and tenderness, delirium, coma,
and death.

Neurological Effects The central nervous system is a major target for
chloroform toxicity in humans and in animals. Chloroform was once
widely used as an anesthetic during surgery in humans, but is not
currently used as a surgical inhalant anesthetic in modern-day medical
practice. Levels of 3,000-30,000 ppm were used to induce anesthesia
(Featherstone 1947; Smith et al. 1973; Whitaker and Jones 1965).
Concentrations of .40,000 ppm, if continued for several minutes, could
result in death (Featherstone 1947). To induce anesthesia, increasing
the concentration of chloroform gradually to 25,000 or 30,000 ppm
during the first 2 or 3 minutes with maintenance at much lower levels
was recommended. Concentrations <1,500 ppm are insufficient to induce
anesthesia; concentration of 1,500-2,000 ppm cause light anesthesia
(Goodman and Gilman 1980). Dizziness and vertigo were observed in
humans after exposure to 920 ppm chloroform for 3 minutes; headache
and slight intoxication were observed at higher concentrations
(Lehmann and Hasegawa 1910). Exhaustion was reported in 10 women
exposed to .22 ppm chloroform during intermediateand chronic-duration
occupational exposures (Challen et al. 1958). Chronic exposure to
chloroform concentrations .77 ppm caused exhaustion, lack of
concentration, depression, or irritability in 9 of 10 occupationally
exposed women. A case report of an individual addicted to chloroform
inhalation for .12 years reported psychotic episodes, hallucinations
and delusions, and convulsions


I trust this information fully meets your needs.  But before rating
this answer, please let me know if there's anything else I can do for
you.  Just post a Request for Clarification, and I'm at your service.


search strategy -- Google search on [ atsdr chloroform ]

Request for Answer Clarification by awaiting-ga on 24 Mar 2005 12:01 PST
Thanks for ur reply.

I have one small clarification:

What is the ppm and mg/L of chloroform in a 100 ml solution that i had described?

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 24 Mar 2005 12:17 PST
Hah!  It's the "small clarifications" that always cause trouble!

As I noted earlier, "...The actual quantity of chloroform on the hanky
doesn't necessarily correspond all that well to the amount of

In plain English that means there's no real way to translate
100-ml-on-a-hanky into a ppm or mg/L type of concentration.

If someone is breathing pure chloroform vapors -- no access to air at
all -- then they are breathing 1,000,000 ppms.

Realistically, if a freshly-doused hanky is firmly put over someone's
mouth and nose, they may wind up breathing very high ppm's -- say
100,000 to 250,000 -- for a short period of time.

Any prolonged contact at this concentration would be fatal.  But as
the chloforform evaporates from the hanky, the concentrations quickly
fall off.

Beyond that sort of rough description, though, there's no way to
really translate your scenario into a ppm or mg/L type of

Hope that helps.

Subject: Re: Chloroform and Death
From: myoarin-ga on 24 Mar 2005 08:26 PST
I hope you are just writing a novel ...  Agatha Christie would have known.  ;)

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy