Chloroform: Old Anesthetic or Common Poison

Chloroform is part of the family of solvents and is called trichlo methane CHCl3. The toxicity of chloroform is mainly 1. Neurological (central nervous system depression), 2. Cardiac (cardiac arrhythmias) a 3. Hepatic and 4. Renal.

In order to understand its mode of action, it is important to emphasize that chloroform is mainly metabolized in the liver with enzymes such as Cytochrome P450 into an extremely potent final toxic product, Phosgene.

When chloroform concentrations are low, hepatic cytochrome P2E1 will be activated and when the concentrations are high, hepatic Cytochrome P2B1 / 2 will be activated. At high concentration chloroform will act as a sub-anesthetic somewhat similar to alcohol.

Acute clinical signs (high doses) are quite obvious such as drowsiness, dizziness, loss of orientation, lack of motor coordination or coma vomiting in severe cases and death of intoxicated persons.

Chloroform also causes the release of catecholamines, which can induce cardiac arrhythmias (fatal depending on the individual). If chloroform is administered in a subacute or chronic dose, it can also cause liver and kidney diseases: inflammation, necrosis, regenerative proliferation.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified chloroform as a Category 2B carcinogen ie potentially carcinogenic to human health. It has been shown to be a carcinogen in animal studies, but there is insufficient evidence to date to extrapolate these results to humans because the sensitivity to chloroform in laboratory animals is much higher compared to 'man.