1,2-dichloroethane, commonly known as ethylene dichloride nowdays, is a liquid organic compound classified as an organochloride. Just like ethylene dichloride is considered an outdated name for 1,2-dichloroethane, it was also once called as Dutch oil in honor of the Dutch scientists who first synthesized this compound from ethylene and chlorine gases in the late 18th century. The chemical structure of ethylene dichloride consists of a covalent bond between its hydrogen atoms and two chlorine atoms, meaning that they share electron pairs between them.
Today, the compound is produced in large quantities from the same basic materials using either chlorinated iron or copper as a catalyst. In fact, the commercial production of this solvent in the US, which began in 1922, eventually earned a place in the top 50 highest volume industrial chemicals produced in the country. In addition, large amounts of this chemical are imported into the US each year from Japan and several Western European countries.
The famous use of ethylene dichloride is applied in industry to produce vinyl chloride, used to manufacture polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It is also used to make polystyrene, a thermoplastic, and styrene butadiene (SBR) latex, an adhesive coating used to bond cement, concrete, and asphalt. In addition, the chemical is used as an industrial solvent to remove oil and grease, as well as in the manufacturing of other chlorinated solvents, such as perchloroethylene, otherwise known as dry cleaning fluid.
As a good apolar aprotic solvent, 1,2-dichloroethane is used as degreaser and paint remover. As a useful ‘building block’ reagent, it is used as an intermediate in the production of various organic compounds such as ethylenediamine. In the laboratory it is occasionally used as a source of chlorine, with elimination of ethene and chloride. Via several steps, 1,2-dichloroethane is a precursor to 1,1,1-trichloroethane, which is used in dry cleaning. At one time, 1,2-dichloroethane was used as an anti-knock additive in leaded fuels.
A small amount ot exposure to Ethane,1,2-dichloro- (CAS: 107-06-2) was once thought to be primarily an occupational hazard, the EPA has discovered that this solvent is also present in significant amounts in rural air, as well as in surface water and groundwater. As might be expected, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports similar findings in Western Europe in regions where this chemical is manufactured. In addition, according to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), this substance has been detected in human breast milk. In terms of environmental impact, 1,2-dichloroethane persists in the ground, but biodegrades in the air within 300 days. However, this substance is toxic to fish and contributes to acid rainfall.