hazards of sodium hydroxide

Sodium hydroxide is one of the most important chemicals in the world. It is widely used in various industries; pulp and paper, textile, food, pharmaceuticals, personal care, water treatment, etc.

According to GlobeNewsWire.com, the market size of this chemical reaches USD 36.17 billion in 2018. And it is predicted that in the year 2027, the market size will become USD 59.24 billion.

However, besides its important role, sodium hydroxide is a hazardous chemical that we need to handle with care. Otherwise, its chemical hazards will harm our safety and health.

Sodium Hydroxide Properties

Sodium hydroxide – with the chemical formula NaOH – has several other names. It is also known as caustic soda, lye, and sodium hydrate.

Sodium hydroxide is a colorless to white liquid, and odorless. The density is higher than water.

It is available both in solid and liquid form in the market. It depends on the use of it in the industry.

The CAS number of this chemical is 1310-73-2.

Chemically, it is a highly reactive chemical that can react with many kind of chemicals. And it is extremely corrosive.

In the form of solid or flake, sodium hydroxide reacts violently with water. So, be careful when you store sodium hydroxide flakes.

Hazards of Sodium Hydroxide

OSHA has published an accident that sodium hydroxide was the cause. On April 12, 2018, an employee got a minor chemical burn when he was trying to transfer sodium hydroxide solution from a large holding tank into an intermediate tank by using a rubber hose.

The accident shows that sodium hydroxide can cause chemical burns when it contacts our skin or eyes. The effect may vary depending on the concentration and exposure time.

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According to NFPA, hazard rating of sodium hydroxide is:

  • Health: 3
  • Flammability: 0
  • Reactivity: 1

Beside chemical burns, what are the hazards of sodium hydroxide actually?

Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, the hazards of sodium hydroxide are:

  • Inhalation: Not expected to be an inhalation hazard unless it becomes airborne dust or mist. Can cause severe irritation of the nose and throat.
  • Skin Contact: corrosive. Contact can cause pain, redness, burns, and blistering. Permanent scarring can result. Severe exposure can cause death. Burns may not be immediately painful; onset of pain may be delayed minutes to hours.
  • Eye Contact: corrosive. Contact causes severe burns with redness, swelling, pain, and blurred vision. Permanent damage including blindness can result.
  • Ingestion: Can burn the lips, tongue, throat, and stomach. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Can cause death.
  • Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure: Conclusions cannot be drawn from the limited studies available. Can cause dry, red, cracked skin (dermatitis) following skin contact.
  • Carcinogenicity: Not known to cause cancer.
  • Teratogenicity / Embryotoxicity: Not known to harm the unborn child.
  • Reproductive Toxicity: Not known to be a reproductive hazard.
  • Mutagenicity: Not known to be a mutagen.