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Chloroform

Chloroform

Chloroform is another name for the colorless, dense, liquid chemical compound trichloromethane. It is nonflammable and has a pleasant odor and a burning, sweet taste. Chloroform is about 40 times as sweet as sugar. Nearly insoluble (unable to be dissolved) in water, chloroform easily dissolves in alcohol, ether, acetone, gasoline, and other organic solvents. It can be prepared by the chlorination of ethyl alcohol or of methane. Once made from acetone and bleaching powder, chloroform is now prepared by the photochemical reaction of methane with chlorine.

Chloroform used for industrial purposes is usually made by the action of iron and acid on carbon tetrachloride. It is important as a solvent for gums, fats, resins, elements like sulfur and iodine, and many other organic compounds. Chloroform is also used to extract and purify penicillin.

Anesthetic Chloroform

Chloroform was popular as an anesthetic from the mid-1800s to around 1900, but it was found to cause death from paralysis of the heart in one patient in about 3,000. It also depresses most of the body's other organs, including the blood vessels, liver, pancreas, and kidneys. It is toxic to the liver. Oxygen-gas mixtures (oxygen with nitrous oxide, for example) regained use in anesthesia after 1900, and chloroform was replaced by safer compounds after about 1940. Years ago, chloroform was widely used in cough syrups, liniments, sedatives, and pain relievers. More recently, it has been listed as a carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and been banned for use in drug, cosmetic, and food products since 1976.

The compound was discovered in 1831 by scientists in three different countries working at the same time: Samuel Guthrie (1782-1848) of the United States, Eugene Soubeiran (1797-1858) of France, and Justus von Liebig of Germany. (Guthrie, an American chemist and physician, also introduced Edward Jenner's vaccination technique to the United States.) M. J. Dumas of Paris described the composition of the new liquid and gave it the name "chloroform" in 1834 or 1835. The Frenchman Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens (1794-1867) noted the anesthetic, but toxic, effect of chloroform on animals in March 1847.

Simpson Discovers Chloroform's Potency

Sir James Young Simpson, an eminent Scottish obstetrician, introduced the medical use of chloroform as an anesthetic in Edinburgh, Scotland, in November 1847. Earlier that year, Simpson had begun using ether to relieve the pain of childbirth, but was dissatisfied with some of ether's drawbacks, such as its disagreeable smell, the large quantities required, and the lung irritation it caused. Ether was also explosive, which was a problem for doctors who often worked by candlelight in rooms heated by fireplaces. A Liverpool chemist, David Waldie, suggested that Simpson try chloroform. On the evening of November 4,1847, Simpson and two doctor friends inhaled some chloroform and, after feeling very happy and talkative, promptly passed out. Impressed with chloroform's potency and rapid effects, Simpson immediately began using it in his obstetrical practice. The first baby bom to a mother who received chloroform for pain was named Anaesthesia.

Scottish clergymen quickly objected to this use of anesthesia, insisting the pain of childbirth was ordained by God. Simpson countered by citing the biblical account of the deep sleep cast on Adam when God took the first man's rib and used it to make Eve. The argument continued until 1853, when Queen Victoria (ruler of England from 1837-1901) chose to be chlo-roformed for the birth of her son Prince Leopold (1853-1884). This event quieted the clergy and made chloroform the most fashionable anestheticespecially in Englandfor the next 50 years.

Although chloroform did carry some risk of heart failure, it was more pleasant to take and more powerful than ether. Queen Victoria's anesthetist, Dr. John Snow (1813-1858), developed an inhaler to regulate the amount of chloroform administered to a patient so that he or she felt no pain but remained conscious.

[See also Anesthesia ]

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chloroform

chloroform (klôr´əfôrm) or trichloromethane (trī´klôrōmĕth´ān), CHCl3, volatile, colorless, nonflammable liquid that has a sweetish taste and a somewhat pungent odor; it boils at 61.7°C. It dissolves freely in ethanol and ether but does not mix with water. Chloroform is produced by reaction of chlorine with ethanol and by the reduction of carbon tetrachloride with moist iron. It was once used as a general anesthetic in surgery but has been replaced by less toxic, safer anesthetics, such as ether. Chemically, it is employed as a solvent for fats, alkaloids, iodine, and other substances. When exposed to sunlight and air it reacts to form phosgene, a poisonous gas.

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chloroform

chloroform (trichloromethane) Colourless, volatile, sweet-smelling liquid (CHCl3) prepared by the chlorination of methane. Formerly a major anaesthetic, it is used in the manufacture of fluorocarbons, in cough medicines, for insect bites and as a solvent. Properties: r.d. 1.48; m.p. −63.5°C (−82.3°F); b.p. 61.2°C (142.2°F).

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chloroform

chlo·ro·form / ˈklôrəˌfôrm/ • n. a colorless, volatile, sweet-smelling liquid, CHCl3, used as a solvent and formerly as a general anesthetic. • v. [tr.] render (someone) unconscious with this substance.

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chloroform

chloroform (klo-rŏ-form) n. a volatile liquid formerly widely used as a general anaesthetic. Chloroform is now used only in low concentrations as a flavouring agent and preservative, in the treatment of flatulence, and in liniments as a rubefacient.

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chloroform

chloroform XIX. — F. chloroforme, f. chloro- (see prec.) + formyl, as being a chloride of formyl (in its obs. sense of methenyl, CH).

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chloroform

chloroformconform, corm, dorm, form, forme, haulm, lukewarm, Maugham, misinform, norm, outperform, perform, shawm, storm, swarm, transform, underperform, warm •landform • platform • cubiform •fungiform, spongiform •aliform • bacilliform •cuneiform, uniform •variform • vitriform • cruciform •unciform • retiform • multiform •oviform • triform • microform •chloroform • cairngorm • sandstorm •barnstorm •brainstorm, rainstorm •windstorm • snowstorm • firestorm •thunderstorm

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