Chloroethane or monochloroethane, commonly known by its old name ethyl chloride, is a chemical compound with chemical formula C2H5Cl.[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][1] It is a colourless flammable gas at ordinary temperature and pressure. It has a characteristic ether-like odour and a burning taste. Chloroethane burns with a smoky, greenish flame, which is a result of the production of hydrogen chloride. It reacts violently with oxidants, alkaline metals, calcium, magnesium, aluminium powder, and zinc. It reacts with water or steam producing corrosive fumes of hydrogen chloride. [2]

Uses [2]


Chloroethane is used as a chemical intermediate, in solvents, aerosols, and anaesthesia. Currently, it is largely used as a blowing agent in foamed plastics. In the past, chloroethane was used in the production of tetraethyl lead, an anti-knock additive to leaded gasoline. It has also been used in the production of ethyl cellulose and for miscellaneous applications including use as a solvent, for phosphorus, sulphur, fats, oils, resins and waxes; in insecticides; and as an ethylating agent in the manufacture of dyes and drugs, refrigerant, and topical anaesthetic and use in the manufacture of dyes, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. Other uses of chloroethane are as a pulp vitality tester in dentistry, as a medication to alleviate pain associated with insect burns and stings, as an adjunct in the treatment of tinea lesions and creeping eruptions, and as a counterirritant for relief of myofacial and visceral pain syndromes. Chloroethane is also used as a solvent, as a refrigerant, and in the production of ethyl cellulose, dyes, medicinal drugs, and other commercial chemicals. It is also used to numb skin prior to medical procedures such as ear piercing and skin biopsy, and in sports injuries.

In the Environment [3]


Most chloroethane exists as a gas in the atmosphere. It breaks down fairly rapidly (about half disappears within 40 days) by reacting with other substances in the air. Small amounts can enter groundwater by filtering through the soil. In groundwater, chloroethane is slowly changed into a simpler form by reaction with water. Some types of bacteria in water may break it down to smaller compounds.

Sources of Emission & Routes of Exposure

Sources of Emission [2]


  • Industry sources: Point sources include release from factories that manufacture or use chloroethane, evaporation from some landfills, solvents, refrigerants, and anaesthetics, release in fumes from the burning of plastics and other materials and spills from shipping accidents.
  • Diffuse sources: The limited amount of information available about chloroethane in drinking water suggests that extremely low levels of chloroethane may be expected in some drinking water supplies because of formation during chlorination, contamination, or seepage into groundwater following storage of chemical wastes or disposal at waste sites.
  • Natural sources: Chloroethane has also been shown to be formed through microbial degradation of other chlorinated solvents in soil systems.
  • Transport sources: It is not expected to be directly associated with mobile equipment.
  • Consumer products: May be present in foamed plastics, some pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, some solvents and refrigerants. It has also been used in sports injury sprays and anaesthetics for ear and body piercing.


Routes of Exposure [4]


The major routes of exposure to chloroethane are:

  • inhalation;
  • skin absorption (liquid);
  • ingestion (liquid);
  • skin and/or eye contact


Health Effects [5]


Acute Effects


Acute inhalation exposure to high levels of chloroethane in humans has resulted in temporary feelings of drunkenness, dizziness, lack of muscle coordination and unconsciousness. Accidental death has resulted from its former medical use as an anaesthetic during major surgery. Tests involving acute exposure of animals in rats and mice have shown chloroethane to have low toxicity from inhalation exposure.


Chronic Effects


Neurological symptoms including ataxia, tremors, speech difficulties, slowed reflexes, involuntary eye movement, and hallucinations, and liver effects were reported in individuals who purposely inhaled very high concentrations of chloroethane for a few months. Some animal studies indicate effects on the lungs, liver, kidneys, and heart due to chloroethane exposure via inhalation. The Reference Concentration (RfC) for chloroethane is 10 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3) based on delayed foetal ossification in mice. EPA has not established a Reference Dose (RfD) for chloroethane.

Reproductive/Developmental Effects


No studies were located regarding reproductive or developmental effects following chloroethane inhalation exposure in humans. Several animal studies found no reproductive effects caused by chloroethane exposure. An animal study reported a decrease in uterine weights, while another study reported minimal evidence of fetotoxicity (increase in centres of unossified bones of the skull) from inhalation exposure to chloroethane.

Cancer Risk


There are no human cancer data available for chloroethane. A 2-year bioassay performed by the NTP indicated that inhaled chloroethane is carcinogenic in female mice and may be carcinogenic in rats. Female mice experienced a significant increase in the incidence of uterine tumours and hepatocellular tumours, but the data on male mice were considered inadequate because of a low survival rate. Benign and malignant epithelial neoplasms of the skin, and three uncommon malignant astorcyomas of the brain, were reported in male and female rats, respectively. EPA has not classified chloroethane for carcinogenicity.

Safety [6]


First Aid Measures


  • Eye Contact: Check for and remove any contact lenses. Immediately flush eyes with running water for at least 15 minutes, keeping eyelids open. Cold water may be used. Do not use an eye ointment. Seek medical attention.
  • Skin Contact: After contact with skin, wash immediately with plenty of water. Gently and thoroughly wash the contaminated skin with running water and non-abrasive soap. Be particularly careful to clean folds, crevices, creases and groin. Cover the irritated skin with an emollient. If irritation persists, seek medical attention. Wash contaminated clothing before reusing.
  • Inhalation: Allow the victim to rest in a well-ventilated area. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Serious Inhalation: If fumes are still suspected to be present, the rescuer should wear an appropriate mask or a self-contained breathing apparatus. Evacuate the victim to a safe area as soon as possible. If the victim is breathing, check for unusual breath odours. Loosen tight clothing such as a collar, tie, belt or waistband. If breathing is difficult, administer oxygen. If the victim is not breathing, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Maintain an open airway. WARNING: It may be hazardous to the person providing aid to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when the inhaled material is toxic, infectious or corrosive. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Ingestion: Since the product is a gas and that it is mostly probable that it will be inhaled more than ingested, please consider first looking at the preventive measures in case of inhalation.

Fire & Explosion Information

  • Chloroethane is flammable in the presence of open flames and sparks;
  • Auto-Ignition Temperature: 519°C (966.2°F);
  • Flash Points: CLOSED CUP: -50°C (-58°F), OPEN CUP: -43°C (-45.4°F);
  • Flammable Limits: LOWER: 3.6% UPPER: 15.4%;
  • Toxic gas is produced upon burning
  • For small fires, a dry chemical powder should be used to extinguish
  • For large fires, water spray, fog or foam should be used. Do not use water jet.
  • Move containing vessels from fire area if without risk.
  • Cool containing vessels with flooding quantities of water until well after fire is out.
  • Cool containing vessels with water jet in order to prevent pressure build-up, autoignition or explosion.
  • Do not extinguish a leaking gas flame unless leak can be stopped. Extinguish secondary fire.
  • Handle damaged cylinders with extreme care.


Exposure Controls & Personal Protection


Ventilation is normally required when handling or using this product.

The following personal protective equipment is recommended when handling chloroethane:

  • Splash goggles;
  • Lab coat;
  • Vapour respirator (be sure to use an approved/certified respirator or equivalent);
  • Gloves

Personal Protection in Case of a Large Spill:

  • Splash goggles;
  • Full suit;
  • Vapour respirator;
  • Boots;
  • Gloves;
  • A self-contained breathing apparatus should be used to avoid inhalation of the product.
  • Suggested protective clothing might not be sufficient; consult a specialist BEFORE handling this product.


United States [3]


  • EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency requires industries to report accidental discharges or spills of 100 pounds or more of chloroethane to EPA.
  • OSHA: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates the amount of chloroethane in workplace air. The limit for an 8-hour workday, over a 40-hour workweek, is 1,000 parts per million (1,000 ppm).
  • ACGIH: The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recommends a limit of 100 ppm chloroethane in workplace air.

Australia [7]


Safe Work Australia: Safe Work Australia has established a maximum time weighted average (TWA) exposure concentration for chloroethane of 1,000 ppm and 2,640 mg/m3