Carbon disulfide


Carbon disulfide is made for commercial use by combining carbon and sulfur at very high temperatures. It has been an important industrial chemical since the 1800s because of its many useful properties, including its ability to solubilise fats, rubbers, phosphorus, sulfur, and other elements. Its fat-solvent properties also make it indispensable in preparing fats, lacquers, and camphor; in refining petroleum jelly and paraffin; and in extracting oil from bones, palmstones, olives, and rags. It was also used in processing India rubber sap from tropical trees. In all these extraction processes, it has now been replaced by other solvents.

Carbon disulfide's most important industrial use has been in the manufacture of regenerated cellulose rayon (by the viscose process) and cellophane. Another principal industrial use for carbon disulfide has been as a feedstock for carbon tetrachloride production. It has also been used to protect fresh fruit from insects and fungus during shipping, in adhesives for food packaging, and in the solvent extraction of growth inhibitors.

Carbon disulfide has been highly suitable for other industrial applications including the vulcanisation and manufacture of rubber and rubber accessories; the production of resins, xanthates, thiocyanates, plywood adhesives, and flotation agents; solvent and spinning-solution applications, primarily in the manufacture of rayon and polymerisation inhibition of vinyl chloride; conversion and processing of hydrocarbons; petroleum-well cleaning; brightening of precious metals in electroplating; rust removal from metals; and removal and recovery of metals and other elements from waste water and other media. In agriculture, carbon disulfide has been widely used as a fumigant to control insects in stored grain, and to remove botfly larva infestations from the stomachs of horses and ectoparasites from swine. Use of carbon disulfide as a grain fumigant in the USA was voluntarily cancelled after 1985.

Substance details

Substance name: Carbon disulfide

CASR number: 75-15-0

Molecular formula: CS2

Synonyms: carbon disulphide; carbon bisulfide; carbon bisulphide; dithiocarbonic anhydride; alcohol of sulfur; carbon bisulfuret; carbon sulfide; carbon sulphide; weeviltox; sulfocarbonic anhydride

Physical properties

Pure carbon disulfide is a colourless liquid with a pleasant odour that is like the smell of chloroform. The impure carbon disulfide that is usually used in most laboratory and industry processes is a colourless to faintly yellow liquid with a strong, disagreeable cabbage-like odour detectable at 0.016 to 0.42 ppm. It is highly refractive. Slightly soluble in water. It is miscible with anhydrous methanol, ethanol, ether, benzene, chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and oils.

Melting Point: -111.5°C

Boiling Point: 46.5°C

Specific Gravity: 1.2632

Vapour Density: 2.67

Flash Point: -30°C

1 ppm = 3.11 mg/m3

Chemical properties

Very highly flammable, very low flash point.

Carbon disulfide easily forms explosive mixtures with air and catches fire very easily; it is dangerous when exposed to heat, flame, sparks, or friction. Vapours can be ignited by contact with an ordinary light bulb. It is incompatible or reactive with strong oxidisers; chemically active metals such as sodium, potassium and zinc; azides; rust; halogens; and amines. When exposed to heat or flame, carbon disulfide reacts violently with chlorine, azides, ethylamine diamine, ethylene imine, fluorine, nitric oxide, and zinc. When heated to decomposition, it emits highly toxic fumes of sulfur oxide; it can react vigorously with oxidising materials.

Further information

The National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) holds data for all sources of carbon disulfide emissions in Australia.


Carbon disulfide breaks down into other chemical substances after it enters the body. Medical tests can measure levels of these substances in urine and blood, but the tests are not reliable indicators of total exposure.

Acute effects: At very high levels, carbon disulfide may be life-threatening because of its effects on the nervous system or heart. Exposure can be through inhalation, absorption through the skin, ingestion, or skin or eye contact. In acute poisoning, early excitation of the central nervous system resembling alcoholic intoxication occurs, followed by depression, stupor, restlessness, unconsciousness, and possible death. If recovery occurs, narcosis, nausea, vomiting, and headache can occur.

Chronic effects: In chronic poisoning, there are sensory changes such as a crawling sensation in the skin, sensations of heaviness and coldness, and "veiling" of objects so that they appear indistinct. Exposure can cause changes in breathing, chest pains, muscle pain, weakness, loss of feeling in the hands or feet, eye problems, skin blisters, chronic fatigue, loss of memory, personality changes, irritability, dizziness, anorexia, weight loss, psychosis, polyneuropathy, gastritis, kidney and liver damage, dermatitis, mental deterioration, Parkinsonian paralysis, and insanity.

Carbon disulfide may damage the developing foetus. It may decrease fertility in men and women, causing sperm abnormalities and spontaneous abortions.

Entering the body

Probable routes of human exposure to carbon disulfide are inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact.


The people most often exposed to carbon disulfide are workers in plants that use carbon disulfide in their manufacturing processes. Releases of carbon disulfide from industrial processes are almost exclusively to the air; individuals in proximity to these sites may be exposed. Exposure may result from breathing air, drinking water, or eating foods that contain it. People may also be exposed through skin contact with soil, water, or other substances that contain carbon disulfide.

Health guidelines

Worksafe Australia:

Maximum time weighted average TWA: 10 ppm 31 mg/m<3

Harmful: concentration cut-off level: 0.20 % weight/weight

Toxic: concentration cut-off level: 1 % weight/weight

Irritant: concentration cut-off level: 20 % weight/weight


Acute (short-term) ecological effects: Acute toxic effects may include the death of animals, birds, or fish, and death or low growth rate in plants. Acute effects are seen two to four days after animals or plants are exposed to a toxic chemical substance. Carbon disulfide has moderate acute toxicity to aquatic life. No data are available on the short-term effects of carbon disulfide to plants, birds, or land animals.

Chronic (long-term) ecological effects: Chronic toxic effects may include shortened lifespan, reproductive problems, lower fertility, and changes in appearance or behaviour. Chronic effects can be seen long after first exposure(s) to a toxic chemical. Carbon disulfide has high chronic toxicity to aquatic life. No data are available on the long-term effects of carbon disulfide to plants, birds, or land animals.

Entering the environment

Carbon disulfide evaporates rapidly when released to the environment. Carbon disulfide does not stay dissolved in water very long, and it also moves quickly through soils.

Carbon disulfide reacts with the hydroxyl (OH) radical in the atmosphere, with the effective rate constant depending on O2 concentration and total pressure. Based on the literature rate constant at one atmosphere of air, the calculated half-life of carbon disulfide due to its reaction with the OH radical are about 8 days. Its reaction products include carbonyl sulfide and sulfur dioxide.

Carbon disulfide is non-persistent in water, with a half-life of less than 2 days. About 99.8% of carbon disulfide will eventually end up in air; the rest will end up in the water.

Where it ends up

Carbon disulfide by itself is not likely to cause environmental harm at levels normally found in the environment. Carbon disulfide can contribute to the formation of photochemical smog when it reacts with other volatile organic substance in air.

Bioaccumulation in most organisms is limited by the metabolism and rapid excretion of carbon disulfide. Bioaccumulation in the food chain is expected to be low.

Environmental guidelines

No national guidelines.

Industry sources

Releases to air from industries producing, using, or handling carbon disulfide; sanitary landfills, and natural gas production and distribution.

Diffuse sources, and industry sources included in diffuse emissions data

Sub-threshold facilities.

Natural sources

Very small amounts of carbon disulfide occur in coal tar and in crude petroleum. Carbon disulfide is a natural product of anaerobic biodegradation and is released to the atmosphere from oceans and landmasses as well as geothermal sources. The ocean appears to be a major source of carbon disulfide. Coastal and marshland areas of high biological activity are also a major source.

Transport sources

No mobile sources.

Consumer products

Consumer products are unlikely to contain significant proportions of carbon disulfide, but some products in which the manufacturing process uses carbon disulfide may contain traces.

Sources used in preparing this information

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