Chloroacetic acid - C2H3O2Cl

What is Chloroacetic acid?

C2H3O2Cl is an organochlorine compound with chemical name Chloroacetic acid. It is also called monochloroacetic acid (MCA) or 2-Chloroacetic acid or Chloroethanoic acid. It is a Chlorocarboxylic acid that carries a 2-chloro substituent. It functions as an herbicide and an alkylating agent. It is derived from acetic acid.

Chloroethanoic acid was first prepared in the year 1843 by a French chemist named Felix LeBlanc. It was prepared by chlorinating acetic acid (CH3COOH) in the presence of sunlight. In the year 1857 it was prepared by a German chemist named Reinhold Hoffmann by a method of refluxing glacial acetic acid in the presence of sunlight and chlorine. A French chemist named Charles-Adolphe Wurtz also prepared Chloroethanoic acid in the same year (1857) by reacting chloroacetyl chloride with water.

Properties of Chloroacetic acid – C2H3O2Cl


Chloroacetic acid

Molecular weight of C2H3O2Cl

94.49 g/mol

Density of Chloroacetic acid

1.58 g/cm3

Boiling point of Chloroacetic acid

189.3 °C

Melting point of Chloroacetic acid

63 °C

Chloroacetic acid structure – C2H3O2Cl

Chloroacetic acid structure

In its solid form it is a colorless or light-brown crystalline solid. It dissolves and sinks in water. It causes thermal burns when transported in its molten liquid form. It is toxic when ingested, inhaled or absorbed through skin. It is combustible and corrosive.

C2H3O2Cl Uses (Chloroacetic acid)

  • Chloroacetic acid is used as an intermediate in the production of ethyl chloroacetate.
  • Used as a bacteriostat.
  • Used as an herbicide.
  • Used as a preservative.
  • Used as a chemical intermediate.

Production of Chloroacetic acid

Industrially monochloroacetic acid is prepared in two methods. The primary method is by chlorinating acetic acid with the help of a catalyst such as acetic anhydride.

CH3CO2H + Cl2 → ClCH2CO2H + HCl

The other method to obtain chloroacetic acid is by hydrolysing trichloroethylene with the help of catalyst such as sulfuric acid.

CCl2=CHCl + 2H2O → ClCH2CO2H + 2HCl

Health hazards

This material is very toxic. The lethal dose is 50-500 mg/kg of body weight. When 2-Chloroacetic acid comes in contact with the skin and eyes it causes irritation and burning sensation. When inhaled it severely damages mucous membranes. Swallowing can cause peritonitis. Other issues related to health include CNS depression, respiratory system depression.

Learn more about the Structure, physical and chemical properties of C2H3O2Cl from the experts at BYJU’S.

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