What is chloroethane? | The Sun

Chloroethane is a chemical compound that can be found in a number of household and medical products.

But is this chemical dangerous? Here's everything you need to know about chloroethane.

What is chloroethane?

Chloroethane, which is commonly known as ethyl chloride, is a colourless, flammable gas or refrigerated liquid with a faintly sweet odour – at room temperature and pressure.

It is produced by hydrochlorination of ethylene and is a chemical compound with the chemical formula CH3CH2Cl.

It is a liquid when stored in pressurized containers, however, the liquid quickly evaporates when exposed to room air. 

Chloroethane can also catch fire easily.

What is chloroethane used for?

It’s described as a strong alkylating agent used in gasoline additives, and is used to convert cellulose to ethylcellulose – a thickening agent and binder in paints, cosmetics, and similar products.

It is also used in petrol additives, plastics, dyes, pharmaceuticals, topical anaesthetics, and as an industrial refrigerant.

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Chloroethane is easily available in pharmacies and is used to numb the skin before medical procedures such as ear piercing and skin biopsies.

It is also used as a treatment in sports injuries – as it is available as a pain relief spray

Chloroethanebecame popular as an inhalant street drug in the 1980s.

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It is also used as a recreational inhalant drug in Brazil – where it is a major component of an illegal drug taken during Carnaval, known locally as "lança-perfume".

Is chloroethane dangerous?

Yes – chloroethane can be fatal if inhaled by humans in higher concentrations.

Toxicity and deaths have been reported.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry ''brief exposure to high levels can produce temporary feelings of drunkenness.

''At higher levels, it can cause lack of muscle coordination and unconsciousness.''

ATSDR say it can also cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and eye irritation – as well as frostbite, if applied to the skin for too long.

However,  breathing in its vapours at more than 15% concentration is often fatal.

Toxic over-exposure will begin at 9% to 12% concentration- the heart rate will begin to drop and breathing will become more shallow or breathing will stop all together.

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At more than 12% concentration, the victim's heart, lungs and kidneys begin to fail.

This constitutes a medical emergency and requires prompt action – immediate CPR followed by medical support measures may be required to prevent fatal kidney, lung and heart failure.

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