Chloral hydrate is a chemical used in the manufacture of other chemicals, including insecticides and herbicides. Chloral hydrate is used as a sedative and hypnotic in human and veterinary medicine. It is also used in the manufacture of DDT and dichloroacetic acid. Chloral hydrate can arrive in drinking water in small amounts through formation as a by-product of water chlorination, or through manufacturing waste.
Health Impact of Chloral Hydrate
Exposure to chloral hydrate can cause symptoms of gastric irritation such as nausea, vomiting and diarhea. Poisoning from large amounts can lead to life-threatening effects such as slowed breathing, decreased heart rates, lowered blood pressure, and deep coma.
Animals studies of long-term exposure to chloral hydrate have shown changes in liver weight, and there is limited evidence that it may be carcinogenic. The International Agency for Research on Cancer reports that there is “inadequate evidence” for carcinogenicity of chloral hydrate in humans, and the EPA classifies it in group C, a “possible human carcinogen.”
No epidemiological or carcinogenic studies were found in humans associating exposure to chloral hydrate with cancer, despite the fact that chloral hydrate has been used for many decades (and still is used) as a sedative and hypnotic drug in adults and children (specifically for dental procedures).