6 Sulphur Dioxide Uses – Chemical Formula – Effects

Not every gas in the atmosphere are safe for us human. We all know that. Different kinds of gas could lead to different effects, be it good or bad. There are certain gas that is good for us and environment, such as Oxygen (O2). And there are also another type of gas that is harmful and very bad for the sustainability of our environment.

Monoxide carbon, dioxide carbon (CO2), and nitrogen (N) are just few examples. What about the other types of gas? Now let’s talk about Sulfur Dioxide. This is a paradoxically good-bad gas that is spreading around here in our earth. This particular gas posses not one, but two characteristic of other gasses. Yes, this gas is harmful and toxic, but also useful for human beings.

What is Sulfur Dioxide?

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is a chemical compound with 197.69 K and 1.67 kPa triple point. Released naturally by volcanic activity, this gas is actually toxic with very sharp and irritating smell like burning matches. This gas’s IUPAC name is sulfur dioxide. Although, it is also known for some other names such as Sulfur (IV) oxide, Sulfuruous anhydride and Sulphur Dioxide.

Sulfur dioxide is acidic yet reducing gases (one of the few common gases in the earth). It react with certain 1,3 dienes to form cyclic sulfones. More than 60% of the SO2 emitted came from smelters and utilities. Other SO2 industrial processes accounted for 20++% of SO2 emissions.

This particular chemical is known as pollution and it is emit from fossil fuels combustion at power plants and other industrial facilities. If you can, it is very much encouraged to avoid this particular gas because an expose to this gas for several time and intensity could leads to various health problems (read below).

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Indeed, here are the Sulfur Dioxide uses in many fields:

  1. Sulfur Dioxide is Temporary Bleach

Sulfur dioxide bleaches things by its reduction. However, it only bleaches temporarily as opposed to chlorine (permanent bleachers.). This chemical’s reaction is reduction and its different from chlorine, which has these mechanism :

SO2-reduction -> temporary

Cl2-Oxidation -> permanent

SO2 removes oxygen from substance and making it looks colorless, which is why it has been used for bleaching things.

  1. Sulfur Dioxide as Food Preservative

From this point onward, you probably already know that sulfur dioxide is not good for your health. But putting it in your food? Come on.

Surprisingly, many people in this era uses this gas as food preservative. You can find sulfur dioxide in several kinds of food such as dried fruits, tin coconut milk, beer, wine, soft drinks, and all kinds of bottle drinks. Apparently, the using of sulfur dioxide as food preservative is caused by its ability to preserve color in food. When you put sulfur dioxide in lemon juice, it could make your juice yellow longer and not turning brown.

  1. Sulfur Dioxide as Disinfectants

Other than two major uses above, sulfur dioxide has also been used as disinfectants. This chemicals when combine with another chemicals could produce sulfuric acid and killing bacteria in substances.

Using sulfur dioxide in the process of wine making is extremely common. This is due to the facts that sulfur dioxide can kill/inhibits unwanted bacteria or yeast. Adding sulfur dioxide in wine could also prevent wine from oxidation.

  1. Sulfur Dioxide as Refrigerant 

Nowadays, we are becoming more aware of this gas’s effects on environment and human body. This is why we don’t often use sulfur dioxide as refrigerant anymore. But, back in the old days, this particular substances is used as refrigerants more often than not. Mentioned by Homer Priestley in 1773, this chemicals has been used for old series of air conditioner because of its cooling effects (around 70-80 years ago).

  1. Sulfur Dioxide Uses in Wine Making 

SO2 plays a very important roles in wine-making (and actually, most food industries. Because of its antioxidant and antibacterial properties, sulfur dioxide could prevents wine from rooting and going bad. It’s main function is to keep the freshness of the wine. Other than maintaining the freshness of the wine, sulfur dioxide could also be used as a hygiene system to keep the wine barrels and properties cleans.

Wine cannot be made without SO2 because wine is a fermentation product. The alcoholic fermentation will produce sulfites from 10 until 100 parts ppm. This could actually leads to danger, but almost all wine makers are doing that nowadays.

According to Senior Windemaker in Vineyards (Pat Henderson), adding sulfur dioxide is actually very effective because its protecting wine and actually affecting the taste so much. Adding sulfur dioxide is not completely necessary but in practical way, almost all winemakers do this.

  1. Acts as Antioxidant

Another reason why many people is using this gas as food preservative is that because sulfur dioxide also acts as antioxidant and it could maintaining the appearance of food. (As well as preventing it from rooting). This has leads to the decision of many food-makers and industries to use this particular gas for their products for the sake of appearances and preservation.

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The Harmful Effects of Sulfur Dioxide

Indeed, there are many sulfur dioxide uses but here are the sulfur dioxide drawbacks:

  1. The Effects of Sulfur Dioxide on Human Beings

Sulfur dioxide is pretty harmful gas when it comes to its effects on human. If you are not careful enough and accidentally inhale this particular chemical, it could surely affects your health. The effects of Sulfur Dioxide could be felt very quickly (around 10-15 minutes after breathing it in). And these effects are : coughing, wheezing, difficulty to breath and feeling a little tight around the chest. When inhales for a long period of time, the effects that this gas gives could double the amount and actually causing us serious health problems such as lung damage and another dangerous disease.

Other than that, Sulfur Dioxide could also leads to another sickness such as corneal haze, airways inflammation, psychic alterations, pulmonary oedema, even heart failure. Even so, we are relatively strong regarded the effects of sulfur dioxide to the body. For another forms of living things such as plants and animal, Sulfur Dioxide can be pretty dangerous and can leads to destruction.

  1. The Effects of Sulfur Dioxide on Plants

Human beings maybe infected and has a little health effect when exposed to this particular chemicals. But, plants have it worse. When a plant is exposed to sulfur dioxide, it could have serious damage depending on the time and intensity of exposure.

This is due to the facts that when a plant is exposed to sulfur dioxide, this gas could open up the stomata in the plants and therefore making the plants looses excessive amount of water. This process inhibits photosynthesis and therefore, brings the plants in danger.

According to the research brought by P.D Crittenden and D.J Read from New Phytologist journal, Sulfur dioxide is responsible for the reduced dry-matter production of plants. This could leads to growth inhibitions in plants. Of course, plants would have it worse when this particular situation happens.

  1. The Effects of Sulfur Dioxide on Environment 

When there is a great amount of sulfur dioxide on enviroment (usually as pollutant), it could leads to serious problems in our enviroment. Sulfur dioxide plus water in air produce sulfuric acid, and this then convert to acidic rain. The effects of acidic rain to our environment is pretty serious. It fabricated several major/chronic issues such as deforestation, acidify waterways to aquatic life, and makes buildings and materials corrode. This is why it is important to reduce the amount sulfur dioxide in human’s every day life.

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Tips for You Regarding Sulfur Dioxide

Now that we know the dangerous effects of sulfur dioxide and how can you find them, it is probably best for you to protect yourself from unwanted risk regarding sulfur dioxide. You can find sulfur dioxide in dried fruits and canned food/juice when it used as food preservation. While it might cause little to no danger towards you directly, if consumed in long period, it could definitely affects your health. To prevent this from happening, you could try and make your own dried fruits and juice. It is healthier and cheaper anyway.

Make sure that you clean and wash your grapes before consuming it because it contains sulfur dioxide. You can clean it under a cool tap using colander to completely remove the toxic. Gently dump the grapes into a piece of paper towel to dried it and you’re good to go.

You might also want to avoid this substance when it comes as pollution effects. It could definitely leads to serious breathing issues for you and you probably don’t want that. Avoid canned and bottled food and drinks could also be your choice if you really want to live healthy.

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