Open main menu

Chloroacetic acid, industrially known as monochloroacetic acid (MCA), is the organochlorine compound with the formula ClCH2CO2H. This carboxylic acid is a useful building-block in organic synthesis.

Chloroacetic acid
Chloroacetic acid
Chloroacetic acid
Preferred IUPAC name
Chloroacetic acid
Systematic IUPAC name
Chloroethanoic acid
Other names
2-Chloroacetic acid
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.001.072
EC Number 201-178-4
RTECS number AF8575000
Molar mass 94.49 g·mol−1
Appearance Colorless or white crystals
Density 1.58 g·cm−3
Melting point 63 °C (145 °F; 336 K)
Boiling point 189.3 °C (372.7 °F; 462.4 K)
85.8 g/100mL (25 °C)
Solubility Soluble in methanol, acetone, diethyl ether, benzene, chloroform, ethanol
log P 0.22
Vapor pressure 0.22 hPa
Acidity (pKa) 2.86[1]
-48.1·10−6 cm3/mol
1.4351 (55 °C)
144.02 J/K mol
-490.1 kJ/mol
Main hazards alkylating agent
Safety data sheet External MSDS
R-phrases (outdated) R25 R34 R50
S-phrases (outdated) S23 S37 S45 S61
NFPA 704
Flammability code 1: Must be pre-heated before ignition can occur. Flash point over 93 °C (200 °F). E.g. canola oilHealth code 3: Short exposure could cause serious temporary or residual injury. E.g. chlorine gasReactivity code 0: Normally stable, even under fire exposure conditions, and is not reactive with water. E.g. liquid nitrogenSpecial hazards (white): no codeNFPA 704 four-colored diamond
Flash point 126 °C (259 °F; 399 K)
< 500 °C (932 °F; 773 K)
Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):
165 mg/kg (mouse, oral)
Related compounds
Related compounds
2-Chloropropionic acid
Sodium chloroacetate
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
☒N verify (what is ☑Y☒N ?)
Infobox references



Chloroacetic acid was first prepared (in impure form) by the French chemist Félix LeBlanc (1813–1886) in 1843 by chlorinating acetic acid in the presence of sunlight,[2] and in 1857 (in pure form) by the German chemist Reinhold Hoffmann (1831–1919) by refluxing glacial acetic acid in the presence of chlorine and sunlight,[3] and then by the French chemist Charles Adolphe Wurtz by reacting chloroacetyl chloride (ClCH2COCl) with water, also in 1857.[4]


Chloroacetic acid is prepared industrially via two routes. The predominant method involves chlorination of acetic acid, with acetic anhydride as a catalyst. This route suffers from the production of dichloroacetic acid and trichloroacetic acid as impurities, which are difficult to separate by distillation.

The second method entails hydrolysis of trichloroethylene:

+ 2 H
+ 2 HCl

The hydrolysis is conducted at 130–140 °C in a concentrated (75%+) solution of sulfuric acid. This method produces a highly pure product, unlike the halogenation route. However, the significant quantities of HCl released have led to the increased popularity of the halogenation route. Approximately, 420,000,000 kg/y are produced globally.[5]

Uses and reactionsEdit

In its largest-scale application, chloroacetic acid is used to prepare the thickening agent carboxymethyl cellulose and carboxymethyl starch.

Chloroacetic acid is also used in the production of drugs, dyes, and pesticides.[5] Most reactions take advantage of the high reactivity of the C–Cl bond. It is the precursor to the herbicide glyphosate, and the herbicides MCPA (2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid) and dimethoate are prepared by alkylation with chloroacetic acid. Chloroacetic acid is converted to chloroacetyl chloride, a precursor to adrenaline (epinephrine). Displacement of chloride by sulfide gives thioglycolic acid, which is used as a stabilizer in PVC and a component in some cosmetics.

Illustrative of its usefulness in organic chemistry is the O-alkylation of salicylaldehyde with chloroacetic acid, followed by decarboxylation of the resulting ether, producing benzofuran.[6][7]


Like other chloroacetic acids and related halocarbons, chloroacetic acid is a hazardous alkylating agent. The LD50 for rats is 76 mg/kg.[5]

Chloroacetic acid easily penetrates skin and mucous membranes and interferes with cellular energy production. Initial dermal exposure to high concentrations (e.g., 80% solution) may not appear very damaging at first, however systemic poisoning may present within hours. Exposure can be fatal if greater than 6% body surface area is exposed to chloroacetic acid. The sodium salt does not penetrate the skin as well as the acid but can be as damaging given a longer duration and greater surface area of exposure.

Upon exposure to chloroacetic acid, immediate decontamination should be commenced by rinsing the affected area with water or bicarbonate solution in order to neutralize the acid and prevent further skin absorption.

The antidote of chloroacetic acid poisoning is sodium dichloroacetate (50 mg/kg IV over 10 mins, repeated in 2h; double dosage if hemodialysis is performed).[8][9][10]

It is classified as an extremely hazardous substance in the United States as defined in Section 302 of the U.S. Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (42 U.S.C. 11002), and is subject to strict reporting requirements by facilities which produce, store, or use it in significant quantities.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Dippy, J. F. J.; Hughes, S. R. C.; Rozanski, A. (1959). "498. The dissociation constants of some symmetrically disubstituted succinic acids". Journal of the Chemical Society. 1959: 2492–2498. doi:10.1039/JR9590002492.
  2. ^ LeBlanc, Félix (1844) "Recherches sur les produits dérivés de l'éther acétique par l'action du chlore, et en particulier sur l'éther acétique perchloruré," Annales de Chimie et de Physique, 3rd series, 10 : 197–221 ; see especially p. 212
  3. ^ Hoffmann, Reinhold (1857) "Ueber Monochloressigsäure" (On mono-chloroacetic acid), Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie, 102 (1) : 1–20.
  4. ^ Wurtz, Adolphe (1857) "Note sur l'aldéhyde et sur le chlorure d'acétyle" (Note on aldehyde and on acetyl chloride), Annales de chimie et de physique, 3rd series, 49 : 58–62, see p. 61.
  5. ^ a b c Koenig, G.; Lohmar, E.; Rupprich, N. (2005). "Chloroacetic Acids". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a06_537.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Burgstahler, A. W.; Worden, L. R. (1966). "Coumarone". Organic Syntheses. 46: 28. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.046.0028.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link); Collective Volume, 5, p. 251
  7. ^ Inglis, J. K. H. (1928). "Ethyl Cyanoacetate". Organic Syntheses. 8: 74. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.008.0074.
  8. ^ Antidote treatment
  9. ^ Mitroka, J.G. 1989. Monochloroacetic Acid Lethality in the Rat in Relation to Lactic Acid Accumulation in the Cerebrospinal Fluid. Ph.D. Dissertation, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ.;
  10. ^ Régnier JF, et al. Experimental evaluation of potential antidotes for monochloroacetic acid (MCA) acute poisoning. Hum Exp Toxicol 1996;15:850.
  11. ^ "40 C.F.R.: Appendix A to Part 355—The List of Extremely Hazardous Substances and Their Threshold Planning Quantities" (PDF) (1 July 2008 ed.). Government Printing Office. Retrieved 29 October 2011.

External linksEdit