Uses of Sodium Metal in Our Daily Life and Health Risks It May Cause

What is Sodium?

Sodium is a chemical element with the symbol Na (which is derived from the Latin word natrium) and the atomic number 11. It is grouped as the alkali metal in the periodic table. Sodium is a soft, silvery-white, highly reactive metal. It is known for being the sixth most abundant element in the earth’s crust.

Sodium exists in numbers of minerals, like feldspars, sodalite, and rock salt (NaCl). Sodium salts, mostly, are water soluble, making it one of the most common dissolved elements by weight in the ocean. Sodium reacts quickly with water (also with snow and ice) to produce sodium hydroxide and hydrogen. The element was first discovered by Sir Humphry Davy in 1807. He was the first person who isolated Sodium by the electrolysis of Sodium hydroxide.

Uses of Sodium metal in our daily life

As one of the most abundant elements on earth, Sodium is expected to have many uses that we can take benefit from. Some of Sodium metals uses in our daily life can be seen as listed below.

  • Nuclear power plants: Sodium is used number of times as a heat exchange medium in nuclear power plants. Heat exchange medium is a material that picks up and carries heat from one place to another.
  • Metal manufacturing: Sodium can also be used in the process of making metals. It is used in the manufacturing process of titanium metal by combining Sodium with titanium tetrachloride (TiCl4).
  • In the making of artificial rubber
  • Purifying molten metals
  • Light bulbs: Sodium is often used in the making of light bulbs. The sodium, in light bulb making, is converted into vapor and injected to a glass bulb. An electric current is passed through a wire in the sodium vapor-filled bulb. The combination of the electric current and the sodium vapor produces a yellowish glow in street lamps.
  • Heat transfer agent: Sodium (also sodium-potassium alloy) is used heat transfer agent.
  • Drying agent
  • Aqueous solutions

Besides its metals, Sodium compounds are also useful for us at times. Those compounds are Sodium hydroxide, sodium chloride, etc. Uses of Sodium Metal in our daily life can be seen as listed below.

  • Soap manufacture: Other than its metal, Sodium compounds are useful at times. For example, the sodium hydroxide compound is used in soap manufacture. Most soaps that we find today are salts of fatty acids.
  • Paper making: Sodium hydroxide is also used in paper making. It is helping in the regeneration of the chemicals that is used to pulp wood chips in the pulping process. Thus, allows the pulp mill to reuse the chemicals and cut the production cost. 
  • Paper recycling: Other than making, Sodium Hydroxide can also be used in paper recycling. Sodium hydroxide can cause paper fibers to swell when the paper fibers are placed in sodium hydroxide solution. The swelling that Sodium hydroxide cause helps in separating of inks that are attached to the paper fibers, which allows the fibers to be reused.
  • Paper bleaching: Sodium hydroxide is used in paper bleaching as an alternative for chlorine.
  • pH control: Another use of Sodium hydroxide is pH control. Sodium hydroxide is used because it has the ability to maintain pH level.
  • Textile manufacturing
  • Edible salt: Sodium chloride, also known as edible salt, is a good deicing agent and it is also a nutrient for humans and some other animals.
  • Glass manufacturing: Sodium can also be used in the manufacturing process of glass. The sodium compound that is used is Sodium carbonate. Sodium carbonate, in glass making, is combined with calcium oxide and heated for quite a period of time.
  • Medical uses: Sodium compounds, such as diclofenac sodium, is used for medication. It is a prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Diclofenac sodium is a common medicine to treat pain and reduce inflammation that is caused by rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Another NSAID sodium compound is Naproxen sodium. It is used to reduce pain that is associated with muscle injury.

There is also a well-known Sodium compound that is used by humans. It is Sodium permanganate. Sodium permanganate is used in wide variety of applications, such as in water treatment, soil rehabilitation, and disinfectant. For more information about Sodium permanganate, you may read Uses of Sodium Permanganate.

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Health risks caused by Sodium

Although Sodium is very useful and beneficial for us, Sodium can also bring us health risk. Consuming too much sodium salts can cause us health risk. Some people may be at a very high risk of developing serious health problems simply by consuming too much of sodium salts. They are people over the age of 50, people who have high blood pressure, and people who have diabetes.

Consuming too much sodium salts can stiffen the blood vessels, which leads to many diseases, like high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and even heart failure. There are also some cases that excessive consumption of Sodium salts can damage the heart, aorta, and kidney without increasing the blood pressure. Sodium salts consumption may also be bad for the bones. Other diseases that may also haunt us, although not very common, by consuming too much sodium salts are cancer (specifically stomach cancer) and osteoporosis.

Other health risk caused by sodium is the contact of sodium with water. The contact of sodium with water causes the formation of sodium hydroxide fumes. It is highly irritating to the skin, eyes, nose, and throat that can cause sneezing and coughing.

Very severe exposure of sodium is also dangerous and it may cause difficulty in breathing, coughing, coughing, and chemical bronchitis. Direct contact of sodium to the skin may cause itching, tingling, and caustic burns that may leave permanent damage. Contact of sodium to the eye is dangerous as well that it may cause you loss of sight.

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