Carbon Tetrachloride

Carbon Tetrachloride Chemical formula
Synonyms: Tetracloruro de carbono; Węgla tetrachlorek. Tetrachloromethane.
Cyrillic synonym: Четырёххлористый Углерод.

💊 Chemical information

Chemical formula: CCl4 = 153.8.
CAS — 56-23-5.


Carbon tetrachloride is a clear, colourless, mobile, liquid with a chloroform-like odour. Sp. gr. 1.588 to 1.590. B.p. 76° to 78°. Practically insoluble in water; miscible with alcohol, chloroform, ether, petroleum spirit, and fixed and volatile oils. Store in airtight containers at a temperature not exceeding 30°. Protect from light.


Avoid contact with carbon tetrachloride; the vapour and liquid are poisonous. Care should be taken not to vaporise carbon tetrachloride in the presence of a flame because of the production of harmful gases, mainly phosgene.

💊 Adverse Effects

Individual response to carbon tetrachloride varies widely; inhalation or ingestion of a few mL of carbon tetrachloride has proved fatal and its toxicity appears to be increased by alcohol. Poisoning may follow inhalation, ingestion, or topical application but develops more rapidly after inhalation. Carbon tetrachloride is irritant; repeated application of carbon tetrachloride to the skin may result in dermatitis. Aspiration may result in pulmonary oedema. Adverse effects after acute exposure from any route include gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, and CNS disturbances such as headache, dizziness, and drowsiness, with progression to convulsions, coma, and death from respiratory depression or circulatory collapse. Death may also occur as a result of ventricular arrhythmia. Hepatic and renal cellular necrosis can occur and are associated with free radical production; symptoms usually begin a few days or up to 2 weeks after acute exposure to carbon tetrachloride. Renal damage may present as oliguria, progressing to proteinuria, anuria, weight gain, and oedema. Symptoms of hepatic damage include anorexia, jaundice, and hepatomegaly. If hepatorenal necrosis is not fatal recovery is eventually complete. Symptoms of chronic poisoning are similar to those of acute poisoning; in addition, paraesthesias, visual disturbances, anaemia, and aplastic anaemia have occurred. Carcinogenicity has been demonstrated in animals.
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2. Johnson BP, et al. Cerebellar dysfunction after acute carbon tetrachloride poisoning. Lancet 1983; ii: 968
3. Perez AJ, et al. Acute renal failure after topical application of carbon tetrachloride. Lancet 1987; i: 515–6
4. Health and Safety Executive. Carbon tetrachloride, chloroform. Toxicity Revie
23. London: HMSO, 1992
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6. WHO. Carbon tetrachloride health and safety guide. IPCS Health and Safety Guide 108. Geneva: WHO, 1998. Available at: (accessed 29/06/04)

💊 Treatment of Adverse Effects

If carbon tetrachloride vapour has been inhaled the patient should be removed to the fresh air. Clothing contaminated by liquid should be removed and the skin washed. If carbon tetrachloride has been ingested gastric lavage may be performed if the patient presents within 1 hour and activated charcoal may be given. The usual symptomatic and supportive measures should be instituted. Hepatic and renal function should be monitored closely. Haemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis may be needed if renal function is impaired. Adrenaline or other sympathomimetics should be avoided because of the risk of precipitating cardiac arrhythmias. Acetylcysteine may be given to patients recently exposed to carbon tetrachloride in an attempt to prevent or modify hepatic and renal damage.

💊 Pharmacokinetics

Carbon tetrachloride is readily absorbed after inhalation and ingestion. It is also absorbed through the skin. Metabolism to reactive free radicals is thought to account for the hepatorenal toxicity of carbon tetrachloride. Carbon tetrachloride is slowly excreted from the body via the lungs and the urine.

💊 Uses

Carbon tetrachloride is employed in industry as a solvent and degreaser. It was formerly used in certain types of fire extinguisher and as an industrial and domestic dry cleaner but has been largely replaced for this purpose by less toxic substances. Carbon tetrachloride has also been used for the fumigation of cereals. Carbon tetrachloride was formerly given orally as an anthelmintic but it has been superseded by equally effective and less toxic drugs.
Published October 18, 2018.