Carbon Tetrachloride


Carbon tetrachloride is a clear, colourless liquid. It has a sweet, heavy odour, and is non-flammable. It is also called by other names, including: carbon chloride, benziform, perchloromethane, methane tetrachloride, and tetrachloroethane. Carbon tetrachloride’s chemical formula is CCl4. [1,2,3]

Uses [1,2,3]

Carbon tetrachloride is used across various industries. In the past, it was used as a solvent in oils, lacquers, varnishes, rubber waxes, resins, and fats. It was also used as a grain fumigant, and in the production of refrigeration fluid and propellants for aerosol cans. It was banned due for consumers due to its toxic effects. It is now only used in industrial manufacturing, and can also be found in fire extinguishers made before 1970.

Routes of Exposure [3]

People can be exposed to the chemical through contaminated groundwater, where it has leached in.

It could also be present in the air, after being evaporated.

Sources of carbon tetrachloride include cleaning agents used in the home.

Health Effects

Carbon tetrachloride poisoning affects a range of systems, including the nervous system.

Acute Effects [3,4]

Severity of symptoms depend on the level and type of exposure.

Acute exposure to the chemical can result in damage to the liver and kidneys, including a swollen a swollen and tender liver, and nephritis, nephrosis, and proteinuria in the kidneys.

Exposure to carbon tetrachloride can result in CNS depression.

CNS depression can also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

Animal testing has shown that acute exposure of carbon tetrachloride results in low toxicity from inhalation, low-to-moderate toxicity from ingestion, and moderate toxicity from dermal exposure

Chronic Effects [2,3]

Carbon tetrachloride is toxic to multiple body systems. Long-term exposure to the chemical can result in liver and kidney damage. It can also result in nerve damage, weight loss, tiredness, confusion, digestive disorders, and loss of colour vision. Carbon tetrachloride has been found to cause liver cancer in laboratory animals.


~h2First Aid Measures [6]

  • Ingestion: DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING. If the victim is conscious, you can induce vomiting. Immediately contact a medical professional.
  • Skin contact: Wipe affected area/s with a dry, clean cloth. Remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories. Rinse victim with lukewarm water until advised to stop by the poisons centre. Contact a doctor immediately.
  • Eye contact: Immediately rinse eyes for 15-20 minutes with gently flowing lukewarm water. Hold the victim’s eyelids open to ensure they are thoroughly flushed. Contact a medical professional immediately.
  • Inhalation: Take victim to the nearest fresh air source and monitor their breathing. Keep the victim warm. If the victim is not breathing, and you are qualified, you may perform CPR with a one-way valve or protective mask. Immediately contact a medical professional. 
  • General: Never administer anything by mouth to an unconscious, exposed person.

  • Exposure Controls/Personal Protection [6]

  • Engineering controls: Emergency eyewash fountains and safety showers should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure. Ensure there is adequate ventilation. Use a local exhaust ventilation to limit the amount of carbon tetrachloride in the air.

  • Personal protection: Safety glasses, protective and dustproof clothing, gloves (PE/E/EVAL/PE; VITON; PVA), an apron and an appropriate mask/respirator. For carbon tetrachloride, a Type A filter (with sufficient capacity) is appropriate. For specifications regarding other PPE, Follow the guidelines set in your jurisdiction. 

Regulation [6]

~h2United States:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set an 8-hour time weighted average (TWA) concentration limit for carbon tetrachloride of 10ppm.

Australia [7]

Safe Work Australia has set an 8-hour time TWA for carbon tetrachloride of 1ppm, to protect for hepatoxicity in exposed workers.