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Chloroacetic acid is synthesized by chlorinating of acetic acid in the presence of red phosphorus, sulfur, or iodine as a catalyst:
CH3CO2H + Cl2 ? ClCH2CO2H + HCl
It also forms by the hydrolysis of trichloroethylene using sulfuric acid as a catalyst.
Illustrative of its usefulness in organic chemistry is the O-alkylation of salicylaldehyde with chloroacetic acid, followed by decarboxylation of the resulting ether, produces benzofuran.