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An organochloride, organochlorine, chlorocarbon, or chlorinated solvent is an organic compound containing at least one covalently bonded chlorine atom. Their wide structural variety and divergent chemical properties lead to a broad range of uses. These chemicals are typically nonaqueous and are usually denser than water due to the presence of heavy chlorine atoms.
The simplest form of organochlorides are chlorinated hydrocarbons. These consist of simple hydrocarbons in which one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced with chlorine. Most low molecular weight chlorinated hydrocarbons such as chloroform, dichloromethane, dichloroethene, and trichloroethane are useful as solvents. Those solvents tend to be relatively non-polar; and therefore immiscible with water and effective in cleaning applications such as degreasing and dry cleaning.
Many organochlorides have significant biological activities, and some can be quite deadly. For example, many powerful and effective insecticides are organochlorides. Common examples include DDT, 2,4-D, dicofol, heptachlor, endosulfan, chlordane, mirex, and pentachlorophenol. Those can be hydrophilic acids or hydrophobic.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were once commonly used electrical insulators and heat transfer agents. Their use has generally been phased out due to health concerns.
Although halogenated organic compounds are relatively rare in nature compared to non-halogenated organic compounds, many organochlorides have been isolated from natural sources ranging from bacteria to humans. There are examples of natural chlorine-containing compounds found in nearly every class of biomolecules including alkaloids, terpenes, amino acids, flavonoids, steroids, and fatty acids. Organochlorides, including dioxins, are produced in the high temperature environment of forest fires, and dioxins have been found in the preserved ashes of lightning-ignited fires that predate synthetic dioxins. In addition, a variety of a simple chlorinated hydrocarbons including dichloromethane, chloroform, and carbon tetrachloride have been isolated from marine algae. A majority of the chloromethane in the environement is produced naturally by biological decomposition, forest fires, and volcanoes. The natural organochloride epibatidine, an alkaloid isolated from tree frogs, has potent analgesic effects and has stimulated research into new pain medication.
Some types of organochlorides have significant toxicity to plants or animals, including humans. Dioxins, produced when organic matter is burned in the presence of chlorine, and some insecticides such as DDT are persistent organic pollutants which pose dangers to the environment. For example, mid-twentieth century overuse of DDT, which accumulates in animals, resulted in the severe decline of some bird populations. Chlorinated solvents, when not handled and disposed of properly, present problems with groundwater pollution. Some organochlorides such as phosgene have even been used as chemical warfare agents. Some of the artificially created and toxic organochlorides, such as DDT, will accumulate in the body with each exposure to eventually form a lethal amount, because the body is unable to break down or dispose of them. However, the presence of chlorine in an organic compound does not in any way ensure toxicity. Many organochlorides are safe enough for consumption in foods and medicines. For example, peas and broad beans contain the natural chlorinated plant hormone 4-chloroindole-3-acetic acid (4-Cl-IAA); and the sweetener sucralose (Splenda) is widely used in diet products. As of 2004, there were at least 165 organochlorides approved worldwide for use as pharmaceutical drugs, including the antihistamine loratadine (Claritin), the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft), the anti-epileptic lamotrigine (Lamictal), and the inhalation anesthetic isoflurane.
With her influential 1962 book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson brought the issue of organochloride toxicity to public awareness. While many countries have phased out the use of some types of organochlorides (such as the US ban on DDT as a result of Carson's work), persistent organochlorides continue to be observed in humans and mammals across the planet at potentially dangerous levels many years after production and use have been limited. In Arctic areas, particularly high levels are found in marine mammals. These chemicals especially impact mammals, and are even found in human breast milk. Males typically have far higher levels, as females reduce their concentration by transfer to their offspring through breast feeding.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Organochloride". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|