May 8, 2017

Handy But Hazardous: The Varied Applications Of Benzyl Chloride

By Jennifer Gilbert

rAs a reactive organochlorine compound, benzyl chloride is frequently used as a chemical intermediate in the manufacturing of many other chemicals with far reaching applications in industrial and pharmaceutical production.

Benzyl chloride is highly reactive, and its ability to readily interact with many other organic chemicals results in thousands of tons being produced each year to use in chemical manufacturing processes. This colorless liquid gives off an odor that’s described as very pungent and can have hazardous effects if not handled with extreme caution.

 

Chemical Intermediate

Since benzyl chloride is used as a precursor in the production of various other chemicals, it has an extensive reach into a wide variety of industries. Among the chemicals for which benzyl chloride is a precursor are benzyl esters. These small, lightweight molecules carry the pleasant aromas that make up some of our favorite scents, similar to those from roses, strawberries, and bananas.

Following natures example, benzyl esters are used commercially in both the fragrance and flavoring industries.

While our noses and tongues might tell us that individual perfumes and flavorings taste very different from one another, specific esters like benzyl acetate provide the basic odors used in many different perfumes and cosmetics, and help make it possible for us to have a bevy of different tastes and smells at our fingertips.

Another primary use of benzyl chloride is in the production of benzyl alcohol, an organic compound with an impressive array of applications.

From effective and environmentally friendly paint solvents, to its use as a bacteriostatic preservative, benzyl alcohol can be considered a miricale chemical that is even FDA-approved for lice treatment. 

 

DEA Classification

Benzyl chloride is also used as a chemical intermediate in the production of pharmaceuticals.

Due to the fact that the chemical process when manufacturing legal drugs is similar to that used to illegally synthesize substances like amphetamines, benzyl chloride is classified as a List II chemical by the DEA.

Their efforts to prevent industrial benzyl chloride from making its way into the world of illicit drug manufacturing mean that legitimate suppliers must follow specific regulations regarding distribution.

 

Potential Hazards

Despite its positive applications, Benzyl Chloride is classified as an extremely hazardous substance in the US.

When exposed to water, benzyl chloride hydrolyzes into benzyl alcohol and hydrochloric acid.  Due to this reaction, benzyl chloride is considered a lachrymator agent or a chemical that causes eye, respiratory, and skin irritation.  Benzyl chloride was first used for these properties as a chemical weapon during World War I.

The acute effects of benzyl chloride inhalation include severe irritation of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes, and can even result in lung damage. The central nervous system can be damaged as a result of exposure to high concentrations of this chemical, and its classification as extremely hazardous means that facilities where it’s being produced or used are held to specific standards of storage and use.

For manufacturers who regularly use benzyl chloride, its important to choose a trusted supplier thats experienced in proper handling and shipping methods.

With more than 35 years in the chemical supply business, Charkit’s commitment to safety and satisfaction make us an excellent choice to provide you with everything from hazardous materials like benzyl chloride, to stable specialty oils used to create high quality cosmetics. We treat all of our chemicals with special care and attention, and superior quality will show through in whatever way you use our products.

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