What are the physical dangers of sodium hydroxide?
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Sodium hydroxide is one of the most widely used chemicals. It is one of the strongest alkalies, known as caustic soda or lye. It is a highly reactive substance. It dissolves in water with evolution of huge amount of heat which may ignite combustible materials nearby, or cause physical damage. Its reaction with other metals, like zinc or aluminium yields hydrogen gas which ignites in the presence of oxygen. Moreover, this substance is extremely corrosive. It imparts a slippery feeling to touch. This is due to sodium hydroxide transforming the skins' fats, in a process similar to one used to make soaps (saponification). Sodium hydroxide will also coagulate tissue protein by reacting with the skin and dehydrating or causing salt formations to take place. Extended skin contact with sodium hydroxide can lead to ulceration and scarring. Vapours of sodium hydroxide is also toxic.
Sodium hydroxide is one of the strongest alkaline with a chemical formula NaOH. It is also known as lye or caustic soda. Industries use this compound in manufacturing paper, pulp, textiles, soap, and many cleaning agents. This strong base forms heat-evolving solutions with water. It undergoes chemical reaction with acids, acidic oxides and some transition metals. Precautions in handling this substance must be observed because of its corrosiveness. The compound causes irritation and injury on any part of the body that comes in contact with it. Skin contact with this hydroxide causes burning, ulceration and permanent scars. The severity of this damage depends on the length that the alkaline stays on the skin and the concentration or the amount of chemical that comes in contact with the skin tissue. When the mist or tiny particles of the compound is inhaled, the lining of the upper respiratory tract suffers from the exposure, manifesting symptoms like runny nose, sneezing and coughing. Depending on the amount of substance inhaled, respiratory exposure could lead to severe irritation with congestion and pulmonary edema, the build up of fluid in the lungs. Ingestion of the compound can lead to burning of the mouth and throat. The gastric lining can suffer from irritation and in severe cases it may rupture and bleed. Other symptoms of gastrointestinal irritation also occur such as vomiting and diarrhea. Death may occur in extreme cases. The strong alkaline may cause blindness due to corneal damage and clouding. These health hazards prompt the proper care and handling of the alkaline. Accidents are, however, unavoidable sometimes.
Sodium hydroxide is one of the most dangerous chemicals. It is one of the strongest alkaline, known as caustic soda or lye. It is white, odorless and non-volatile in aqueous solutions. It is not readily flammable. However, it is a highly reactive substance. It forms an exothermic solution with water, evolving heat which may ignite combustible materials nearby. Its reaction with other metals yields hydrogen gas which ignites in the presence of oxygen. Moreover, this substance is extremely corrosive.
This compound is found in many manufacturing plants. It is used in the following industrial purposes: manufacture of soaps, detergents and cleaning agents; processing of cotton and production of rayon and cellophane; processing of petroleum and natural gas; manufacture of pulp and paper; and various other chemical processing like pH control and acid neutralization. This chemical is also found in textile processing, vegetable oil refining, water treatment, manufacture of glass, preparation of adhesives, and stabilization of sodium hypochlorite. It is used in the processing of aluminum and degreasing of metals.
This compound is either used in industries as a pure solid substance or in solutions with water at varying concentrations. It may be found with impurities like sodium chloride, sodium carbonate, and metals like iron and nickel.
This chemical is known in chemistry to be one of the most dangerous substances that must be handled with extreme caution.
This alkaline substance does not form vapors but may form aerosol dust which can be inhaled. Reports from cases of inhalation of caustic soda suggest that this compound has the ability to irritate the respiratory tract lining. A lung injury known as pulmonary edema or the accumulation of fluid in the lungs may happen. Workers exposed to a hot mist of this compound in unventilated area will experience tightness of chest, difficulty in breathing, and cough. This is due to the bodys defense mechanism against the irritant. There was a reported case of a man who sustained severe pulmonary injury due to inhalation of aerosol containing the substance. This happened when water was poured onto sodium hydroxide pellets.
This compound is very corrosive that it should not come in contact with any part of the body. During skin exposure, the substance causes severe burning, ulceration and scarring. One of the dangers of skin exposure is that the chemical tends to destroy deeper layers of the skin until it is washed off. The extent of injury depends on the length and amount of exposure.
Another thing which must be guarded is the possibility of eye contact because the chemical can penetrate deep into the eyes. One of the most obvious symptoms of eye injury due to exposure is damage on the cornea accompanied by clouding and loss of normal vision. This could progress to eye disorders like glaucoma and cataract. The ulceration and clouding in the eye may continue resulting to permanent blindness.
Accidental ingestion of the alkaline may result to even more serious conditions. The substance is likely to corrode anything in its path. Thus, severe burns in the mouth, throat, esophageal lining, and gastric lining may happen. This could be accompanied by vomiting and loose bowel movement. In severe cases hemorrhage and perforation may occur, which leads to death.
These, however, are results of initial and acute exposures. Chronic exposure is one thing that concerns most workers in industrial plants where sodium hydroxide is introduced and utilized. Continual skin contact causes the skin to become dry, cracked, and inflamed. Chronic respiratory exposure may cause serious obstruction in the airway.
A research was conducted to determine whether the inorganic base is responsible for cancer. Individuals who were frequently exposed to it were called in for the study. There is a speculation that the alkaline causes cancer of the esophagus to individuals who have accidentally swallowed it. However, the cancer does not develop until more than ten years from exposure. The same cancer tissue growth has been noticed in areas of the skin that suffered previous burns. But experts believe that the cancerous growths have been due to the damage to the tissue and formation of scar and not directly caused by chemical exposure.
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