Bromoform

What is Bromoform?

Bromoform (CHBr3) is a pale yellowish liquid with a sweet odour similar to chloroform. It is soluble in about 800 parts water and is miscible with alcohol, benzene, chloroform, ether, petroleum ether, acetone, and oils. It is also non-flammable and readily evaporates into the air. Bromoform is produced naturally by phytoplankton and seaweeds in the ocean and this is thought to be the predominant source to the environment.

What is Bromoform used for?

Bromoform is used as an intermediate in geological tests and as a solvent for waxes, greases, and oils. It is also used in shipbuilding, aircraft, and aerospace industries and as an ingredient in fire-resistant chemicals and gauge fluid. Bromoform previously had a minor use as a sedative but is now considered too toxic. 

Bromoform once had a place as a sedative before its toxicity was realised.
Bromoform once had a place as a sedative before its toxicity was realised.

Bromoform Hazards

You can be exposed to bromoform through inhalation, ingestion or skin and eye contact.

Inhalation of bromoform vapours or fumes may produce respiratory discomfort and distress. It can lead to feelings of drowsiness and dizziness, possibly accompanied by unconsciousness, reduced alertness, loss of reflexes and a lack of coordination and vertigo. Mild anaesthetic effects have been reported following exposure to bromoform. The likelihood of inhalation increases at higher temperatures. In severe cases of exposure, death from respiratory failure or cardiac arrest is a possibility. 

Swallowing a small amount of bromoform may lead to dizziness, disorientation and slurred speech. Ingesting larger quantities of the chemical can lead to unconsciousness and even death. Animal experiments would indicate that ingestion of less than 150g will be either fatal or cause very serious damage to people. 

Skin contact with bromoform is likely to produce inflammation and irritation of the skin, appearing as redness, swelling and possibly blistering. Skin should be checked for cuts and open wounds before handling the chemical as entry into the bloodstream can lead to more harmful health effects. 

Eye exposure is likely to cause eye irritation and inflammation characterised by temporary redness, temporary vision impairment and other forms of damage to the eye.  

Bromoform Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source and monitor their breathing. If they find breathing difficult, loosen tight collars and belts and give them oxygen. If they are not breathing, perform CPR (if you are qualified to do so).

If bromoform is swallowed, do not induce vomiting unless a medical professional has advised you to do so. If a large amount has been swallowed, seek medical attention immediately. 

In the event of exposure to skin; remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and cleanse the affected area with plenty of water (and disinfectant soap if available). Apply the affected area with antibacterial cream  in cases of more serious contact. Contaminated clothing must be washed before wearing again. Seek medical attention.

If eye exposure occurs, remove any contact lenses and flush the eye with warm running water for at least 15 minutes, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Seek medical attention.

Bromoform Safety Handling

Adequate ventilation should be available when handling bromoform and local exhaust ventilation should be installed to minimise airborne concentrations of vapours. 

Emergency eyewash units should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical.

The recommended PPE for handling bromoform includes:

  • Splash goggles
  • Lab coat
  • Vapour respirator
  • Gloves
  • Boots