Chloroform is marked as a priority pollutant and is among the D-listed chemicals.
If you have any chloroform lying around, for whatever reason, you need to be incredibly careful at its disposal.
Not using the right technique or ignoring the necessary safety protocols could risk your life and contaminate the environment around you.
This chemical can mix in with your water supply or become a part of the air you and your family breathe in. Due to its innate toxicity at even the lowest exposure levels, you need to know how to dispose of chloroform safely.
Below, we have discussed several techniques you could consider, followed by handling instructions and what to do in case of an emergency. Let’s dive right in.
How to Dispose of Chloroform Safely
Here are some quick and easy ways of disposing of chloroform.
Remember to comply with all handling instructions and safety protocols (mentioned below) when you follow these.
Donate to the Local School Lab
One of the best ways to eliminate any chloroform lying around is by sending it off to a school or college lab.
Since this chemical is commonly used as a solvent in labs, you will be helping them out while also getting your job done.
This also ensures your materials are actually used up and not wasted away unnecessarily.
Putting your chloroform down the drain isn’t an option, but you can always evaporate it outdoors in minute amounts to discard the chemical.
If you have just a few 100 ml of chloroform, take an old towel or a big heap of paper towels and pout it outside in your backyard.
Pour the chloroform onto the towel and let it evaporate under the sun.
Doing this on a windy, dry day will help the chloroform evaporate faster and disperse widely into the atmosphere, eliminating any chances of inhalation.
Reflux with NaOH
If you’re feeling particularly scientific, you could always try refluxing the chloroform with aqueous NaOH (sodium hydroxide).
The reaction takes around 2 hours and will produce sodium formate and sodium chloride, both of which can easily be disposed of in your chemical waste.
Just make sure the chloroform doesn’t come in contact with any solid NaOH, as this reaction can be exothermic, which means vast amounts of heat would be released.
Also, be sure to stir the mixture vigorously for a quick and safe reaction.
Special Handling Instructions
Before you get started on how to dispose of chloroform, you should be well-versed in the proper way of handling the chemical.
- Anybody handling chloroform should have the required PPE, including eye and nose protection, to prevent inhalation.
- There should be adequate ventilation in the room to maintain chloroform vapor concentrations below harmful levels.
- Keeps self-contained, positive pressure breathing apparatus ready if you’re handling chloroform in an area with limited ventilation.
- Do not use cartridge or canister type respirators are not to be used with chloroform.
- Handle it in an area with an eyewash fountain or sink nearby to rinse off your eyes in case of exposure quickly.
- Use gloves made of waterproof materials like Viton or nitrile rubber.
- Ensure there is no alcohol intake before or after handling the chloroform as it can increase the severity of health risk in case of exposure.
First Aid Procedures In Case of an Emergency
Here are some first aid procedures to keep in mind should an emergency occur.
If swallowed, rinse out your mouth well with water.
Then call a physician for a proper medical checkup.
If inhaled, move to an open-air area with lots of fresh air.
Breathe in deep and try to clear out your lungs. If you notice any difficulty in breathing, rush to the E.R. and get professional medical help asap.
Wash skin with soap, then stand under a constant stream of copious amounts of water for 10 to 15 minutes.
In case of eye exposure, flush out your eyes repeatedly with copious amounts of water for a minimum of 15 minutes.
Make sure that the entire eye is being rinsed by separating your eyelids with your fingers. Then, call a physician and get further medical help.
What to do if a Spill Occurs
In case of a spill, you need to assess the level of danger and act accordingly.
Always start by helping injured or contaminated people after ensuring you have the right PPE on.
Then, evacuate a spill area while holding your breath to eliminate chances of inhaling chloroform vapors.
If possible, you should try to contain the spill to a limited area and not let it spread. Use absorbent material to do so but ensure your own safety first.
For small spills, you can assist with the cleanup effort if you have adequate information about the right safety protocols to follow.
Be sure to double bag any spilled waste or absorbent materials used to wipe off the spill. Discard it in the chemical waste or hazardous materials bin.
For larger spills of more than 1L, dial 911 and get professional help. You should never risk handling big spills of chloroform yourself.
Can Chloroform Go Down the Drain?
Disposing of your chloroform down the drain is a sure-fire way of interrupting the water flow of your property, damaging the water pipes, and even contaminating your neighborhood’s water supply.
No chloroform, phenol, or TRIzol should even be discarded down the sink drain of your kitchen or bathroom.
Instead, be sure to follow the safe and effective methods on how to dispose of chloroform mentioned above. These ensure that no damage comes to the handler or the location where the chemical is being handled.
Also, remember to discard any apparatus, including clothes, gloves, or bowls that have come in contact with the chloroform in a separate, tightly sealed container.
This container should be marked as ‘hazardous chemical waste’ and disposed of accordingly.
Is Chloroform Hazardous?
Chloroform is actually a very hazardous chemical that can have severe repercussions for your body upon exposure.
Physical exposure will harm your eyes, leading to discomfort and burning as well as your skin.
On the other hand, continued contact with chloroform can damage your internal organs, particularly your liver, nervous system, and kidneys.
If inhaled or ingested, even the smallest amounts of the lowest concentration of chloroform can pose a serious risk to your life.
Long-term exposure serves as a carcinogen, increasing the chances of developing numerous forms of cancers in your body.
Is it Legal to Carry Chloroform?
Despite how dangerous chloroform exposure can be to human health, there is no permit necessary to carry the substance.
Although the synthesizing process for chloroform requires the sophisticated and experienced hands of a knowledgeable chemist, it is quite accessible for people to simply purchase it at a chemical supply store.
That being said, just because it is legal and available doesn’t mean you should have it.
Chloroform is a highly hazardous chemical that should only be used under proper caution for lab work. Please don’t try to pull a movie stunt by using it on other people or even yourself.
How do Labs Handle Chloroform?
Labs take sufficient precautionary steps to ensure all risk of chloroform exposure is eliminated when handling the chemical.
All of the workers in the lab use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes a cotton lab coat, long pants, and closed shoes.
Moreover, they also use 12 mils thick Viton over Butyl gloves in case of a splash or spill that may require cleaning up.
If there are any chances of the chloroform releasing into the air, they wear eye goggles and a face mask to prevent inhalation or irritation to the eyes.
How Much Chloroform is Toxic to Humans?
Chloroform is toxic to humans, even in the smallest amounts. A general toxic dose is stated to be 7 to 25 mg/dL. This amounts to 0.59 to 2.1 mmol/L.
To add to this, you should remember that the intensity of the effect of chloroform on the body increases vastly when inhaled due to quick absorption into the lungs.
At inhaled concentrations of merely 1500 ppm, you will begin to feel the physical effects of chloroform, including dizziness, headaches, tiredness, and lethargy.
To understand just how potent it is, you should remember that the effects of anesthesia start to appear at 1500 to 30,000 ppm, while at 1500 ppm, chloroform is already making you unable to function properly.
P.S. Inhaled chloroform also irritates your respiratory tract, causing difficulty in breathing.
Can You Detect the Concentration of Chloroform in the Human Body?
There are tests and diagnostics that can be done to determine the amount of chloroform in the air you breathe out.
Tests can also show its concentration in your urine, blood, and various body tissues.
However, there is no reliable test to detect the concentration of chloroform that you have been exposed to.
This also means that lab experts can warn you about any adverse health effects that you may experience or offer medical attention to treat them beforehand to limit the severity.
Final Clean Up
When handling chloroform, you must keep in mind that it is a select carcinogen and can be extremely dangerous if swallowed or inhaled.
Therefore, it is essential to follow the abovementioned techniques on how to dispose of chloroform safely.
It would be best if you were also careful in disposing of any surfaces that have come in contact with the chloroform.
This includes any gloves, face masks, etc., that you were wearing along with the materials used in the process.
The apparatus that cannot be disposed of should be washed thoroughly with soap and excessive amounts of water.
Throw away the disposable materials in double bags in the hazardous waste pile. Good luck!
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