Chloroform, or trichloromethane, is an organic compound with the formula CHCl3. It is a colourless, strong-smelling, dense liquid that is produced on a large scale as a precursor to PTFE. It is also a precursor to various refrigerants It is one of the four chloromethanes and a trihalomethane. It is a powerful anaesthetic, euphoriant, anxiolytic and sedative when inhaled or ingested.

Read Pritish Kumar Halder blog, to understand the Chloroform, its natural occurrence production process and uses. 

Natural occurrence

The total global flux of chloroform through the environment is approximately 660000 tonnes per year, and about 90% of emissions are natural in origin. Many kinds of seaweed produce chloroform, and fungi are believed to produce chloroform in soil. Abiotic process is also believed to contribute to natural chloroform productions in soils although the mechanism is still unclear.

Chloroform volatilizes readily from soil and surface water and undergoes degradation in air to produce phosgene, dichloromethane, formyl chloride, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen chloride. Its half-life in air ranges from 55 to 620 days. Biodegradation in water and soil is slow. Chloroform does not significantly bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms.


In industry production, chloroform is produced by heating a mixture of chlorine and either chloromethane (CH3Cl) or methane (CH4).[8] At 400–500 °C, a free radical halogenation occurs, converting these precursors to progressively more chlorinated compounds:

CH4 + Cl2 → CH3Cl + HCl

CH3Cl + Cl2 → CH2Cl2 + HCl

CH2Cl2 + Cl2 → CHCl3 + HCl

Chloroform undergoes further chlorination to yield carbon tetrachloride (CCl4):

CHCl3 + Cl2 → CCl4 + HCl

The output of this process is a mixture of the four chloromethanes (chloromethane, dichloromethane, chloroform, and carbon tetrachloride), which can then be separated by distillation.

Chloroform may also be produced on a small scale via the haloform reaction between acetone and sodium hypochlorite

3 NaClO + (CH3)2CO → CHCl3 + 2 NaOH + CH3COONa


Deuterated chloroform is an isotopologue of chloroform with a single deuterium atom. CDCl3 is a common solvent used in NMR spectroscopy. Deuterochloroform is produced by the haloform reaction, the reaction of acetone (or ethanol) with sodium hypochlorite or calcium hypochlorite. The haloform process is now obsolete for the production of ordinary chloroform. Deuterochloroform can be prepared by the reaction of sodium deuteroxide with chloral hydrate.

The haloform reaction can also occur inadvertently in domestic settings. Bleaching with hypochlorite generates halogenated compounds in side reactions; chloroform is the main byproduct. Sodium hypochlorite solution (chlorine bleach) mixed with common household liquids such as acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, ethanol, or isopropyl alcohol can produce some chloroform, in addition to other compounds such as chloroacetone or dichloroacetone.


In terms of scale, the most important reaction of chloroform is with hydrogen fluoride to give monochlorodifluoromethane (CFC-22), a precursor in the production of polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon).

CHCl3 + 2 HF → CHClF2 + 2 HCl

The reaction is conducted in the presence of a catalytic amount of mixed antimony halides. Chlorodifluoromethane is then converted into tetrafluoroethylene, the main precursor to Teflon. Before the Montreal Protocol, chlorodifluoromethane (designated as R-22) was also a popular refrigerant.


The hydrogen attached to carbon in chloroform participates in hydrogen bonding. Worldwide, chloroform is also used in pesticide formulations, as a solvent for fats, oils, rubber, alkaloids, waxes, gutta-percha, and resins, as a cleansing agent, grain fumigant, in fire extinguishers, and in the rubber industry. CDCl3 is a common solvent used in NMR spectroscopy.

Lewis acid

In solvents such as CCl4 and alkanes, chloroform hydrogen bonds to a variety of Lewis bases. HCCl3 is classified as a hard acid and the ECW model lists its acid parameters as EA = 1.56 and CA = 0.44.


As a reagent, chloroform serves as a source of the dichlorocarbene : CCl2 group. It reacts with aqueous sodium hydroxide usually in the presence of a phase transfer catalyst to produce dichlorocarbene, :CCl2.This reagent effects ortho-formylation of activated aromatic rings such as phenols, producing aryl aldehydes in a reaction known as the Reimer–Thiemann reaction. Alternatively, the carbene can be trapped by an alkene to form a cyclopropane derivative. In the Kharasch addition, chloroform forms the CHCl2 free radical in addition to alkenes.


The anesthetic qualities of chloroform were first described in 1842 in a thesis by Robert Mortimer Glover, which won the Gold Medal of the Harveian Society for that year. Glover also undertook practical experiments on dogs to prove his theories.



Chloroform is known to form as a by-product of water chlorination along with a range of other disinfection by-products and as such is commonly present in municipal tap water and swimming pools. Reported ranges vary considerably but are generally below the current health standard for total trihalomethanes of 100μg/L. Nonetheless, the presence of chloroform in drinking water at any concentration is considered controversial by some.


It is well absorbed, metabolized, and eliminated rapidly by mammals after oral, inhalation, or dermal exposure. Accidental splashing into the eyes has caused irritation. Prolonged dermal exposure can result in the development of sores as a result of defatting. Elimination is primarily from lungs in the form of chloroform and carbon dioxide; less than 1% is excreted in urine.