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Carbon disulfide

Carbon disulfide is a colorless liquid with a pleasant odor that is like the smell of chloroform. The impure carbon disulfide that is usually used in most industrial processes is a yellowish liquid with an unpleasant odor, like that of rotting radishes.

Carbon disulfide evaporates at room temperature, and the vapor is more than twice as heavy as air. It easily explodes in air and also catches fire very easily.

In nature, small amounts of carbon disulfide are found in gases released to Earth's surface as, for example, in volcanic eruptions or over marshes. Commercial carbon disulfide is made by combining carbon and sulfur at very high temperatures.

It is used to manufacture regenerated cellulose (the main ingredient of viscose rayon and cellophane), carbon tetrachloride and organic sulfur compounds including xanthates, used as flotation agents in mineral processing, and Metham sodium soil fumigant.

Synonym: dithiocarbonic anhydride.

Health effects

At very high levels, carbon disulfide may be life-threatening because of its effects on the nervous system. People who breathed carbon disulfide near an accident involving a railroad car showed changes in breathing and some chest pains.

Some workers who breathed high levels during working hours for at least 6 months had headaches, tiredness, and trouble sleeping. However, these workers may have been exposed to other chemicals besides carbon disulfide. Among workers who breathed lower levels, some developed very slight changes in their nerves.

Studies in animals indicate that carbon disulfide can affect the normal functions of the brain, liver, and heart. After pregnant rats breathed carbon disulfide in the air, some of the newborn rats died or had birth defects.

High concentrations of carbon disulfide have caused skin burns when the chemical accidentally touched people's skin.