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Glossary - 1,1,1-Trichloroethane

A colourless liquid with a sweet, pleasant odour.  May irritate skin, eyes and mucous membranes.  In high concentrations the vapours may have a narcotic effect.


  • nonflammable, but may decompose and emit toxic chloride fumes if exposed to high temperatures
  • insoluble in water (yet it also absorbs some water)
  • decomposes in the presence of chemically active metals (this includes aluminium, magnesium and their alloys)
  • will react violently with dinitrogen tetraoxide, oxygen, liquid oxygen, sodium and sodium-potassium alloys
  • will also react violently with acetone, zinc and nitrates
  • can react with sodium hydroxide
  • is incompatible with strong oxidizers and strong bases (mixtures with potassium or its alloys are shock-sensitive and may explode on light impact)
  • can react with an aqueous suspension of calcium hydroxide, and with chlorine in sunlight
  • will attack some forms of plastics, rubber and coatings (upon contact with hot metal or on exposure to ultraviolet radiation)
  • will decompose to form irritant gases

A cobalt/molybdenum-alumina catalyst will generate a substantial exotherm on contact with its vapour at ambient temperatures.  Hazardous reactions also occur with (aluminium oxide+ heavy metals):

  • INHALATION: symptoms range from loss of equilibrium and in-coordination to loss of consciousness; high concentration can be fatal due to simple asphyxiation combined with loss of consciousness
  • INGESTION: produces effects similar to inhalation and may cause some feeling of nausea
  • EYES: slightly irritating and tearing
  • SKIN: defatting action may cause dermatitis

Toxic and irritating gases are generated in fires.  Studies on laboratory animals have shown that 1,1,1-Trichloroethane is not retained in the body for long periods of time, however, chronic exposure has been linked to abnormalities in the liver, kidneys, and heart.  Pregnant women should avoid exposure, as the compound has been linked to birth defects in laboratory animals (see teratogenesis).


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