Chloroform toxicity: What is it and why did it kill Mariah Woods?

Chloroform toxicity: What is it and why did it kill Mariah Woods?
Updated: Jan. 25, 2018 at 5:24 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - It's found in small doses in swimming pools, tap water, and was originally used as a dry cleaning spot remover, a fumigant, and an anesthetic.

Onslow County authorities said Wednesday that toxicology results revealed 3-year-old Mariah Woods died due to chloroform toxicity. The toddler was the subject of a nationwide Amber Alert last year after she disappeared from her home. Her body was eventually found in a creek in Pender County.

Authorities did not state whether she breathed the chemical in or ingested it.

Earl Kimrey, 32, the live-in boyfriend of Mariah's mother, Kristy Woods, is now charged with first-degree murder in connection with Mariah's death.

The Environmental Protection Agency says chloroform is 40 times sweeter than sugar, and has a very pleasant smell.

According to UNCW Chemistry Professor Pamela Seaton, just a tiny amount of the chemical — about 1.5 ounces or the size of a shot glass — can kill.

"We don't use chloroform for our undergraduate labs because it is so toxic," Seaton explained.

Seaton says ingesting it is only one way to feel its debilitating effects. You can breathe it in too, which was the original intent of the chemical.

"The reason it's not used anymore is because there were too many deaths when it was used as an anesthetic. It's too toxic," explained Seaton.

The health effects from the chemical, which is a probable carcinogen, are alarming as well.

"It will render a person unconscious then they can asphyxiate or they can have heart problems that will cause arrhythmia or defibrillation. Basically, it can be deadly," Seaton said.

Surprisingly, it can be made by combining several household products like bleach and acetone or nail polish remover. A simple YouTube search reveals numerous tutorials on how to make the chemical.

"Those items can produce chloroform. Chlorine comes from the bleach itself but it would be produced it in small quantities. However, if you breathe it in, it can be toxic," Seaton said. "You wouldn't want to let kids play with it."

Seaton says the chemical is highly regulated and not found in stores.

"A person shouldn't be able to go out and buy it," she said. "You have to have a license. If someone has it they have gotten it from work or some other source."

Kimrey remains in the Onslow County Jail under no bond. His next court date is February 14.

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