Per the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, pure chloroform has a pungent smell that is very similar to that of ether. Because inhaling chloroform can quickly render a person unconscious, it is important to be able to recognize the odor.
Chloroform is generated as a by-product of chlorine naturally, so it can occur by itself in bodies of treated water, such as public pools or city water sources. Low-level exposure is possible through touch or ingestion, while high-level exposure occurs most frequently through inhalation. The side effects of exposure can include cancer, reproductive defects and damaged organ systems, among others.