July 18, 2014 | By No Comments

Sodium Metal: Facts, Dangers And Safety Precautions

Science defines sodium as a chemical element that can be represented with the symbol Na; its Latin name is natrium, hence the symbol. While sodium carries an atomic number of 11, it is soft, and has a light silver-white colour. Best described as a highly reactive metal, Sodium is also a member of the alkali metal family. Interestingly enough, its only stable isotope is 23Na.

Now that the basics about sodium metal are clear, here is an overview on its emergency properties.

This light silver white solid substance might ignite spontaneously on exposure to moisture carrying air. So it is a combustible solid and can lead to eye burns for real!In some severe cases, sodium has also caused digestive tract and respiratory tract burns. Some symptoms are cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and delayed lung oedema. So without a doubt, Na it is corrosive and highly water-reactive.

Note: Any contact between human skin and sodium metal could cause irritation; many a times one might as well suffer from possible burns of the skin if it is wet or moist. In case any such medical condition arises out of Sodium metal, here are a few first aid measures to deal with the same.

First aid measures to treat sodium induced injuries:

1. Eyes:On encountering an eye irritation, it is advisable to immediately flush eyes with plenty of water for 15 minutes at the least.   An occasional lifting of upper and lower eyelid is advisable. One must call for medical aid as soon as possible.
2. Skin must be washed with lots of water for as long as possible; also get rid of all contaminated clothing and shoes and call for  medical aid if irritation persists.
3. In case it is ingested by mistake, sodium might induce vomiting. A conscious and alert victim must be given 2-4 cups of milk or water. Unconscious patients must be subjected to medical aid.
4. Inhaled sodium must be treated by inhaling fresh air immediately. Artificial respiration is advisable and if breathing is tough,  oxygen must be subjected followed by professional medical aid.

Apart from medical emergencies, sodium might cause a fire as well.

Sodium can cause a fire!

No kidding, but yes, Sodium can actually start off a fire! Like any other fire accident, one must put on a self-contained breathing apparatus. There might be a pressure-demand, approved or equivalent and protective gear.

Please remember that sodium can react violently with water and thereby giveoff flammable gas – many a times this reaction causes an explosion as well. As in any fire, wear a self-contained breathing apparatus in pressure-demand, MSHA/NIOSH (approved or equivalent), and full protective gear. Reacts violently with water giving off flammable gas which may explode. At the time such a fire starts off, irritating and highly toxic gases are given off. In such a case, please DO NOT USE WATER or CO2 or any other halogenated extinguishing agents. Dry sand is the best way to curb the flames.

Thus while handling sodium metal, personal protective gear must be worn and all safety measures need to be followed to avoid accidents and damages. Most chemical companies in India that manufacture or deal in sodium metal have a list of safety guidelines that re strictly followed for the safety of personnel within the plant. After all, it is a flammable metal that is dangerous when untamed!

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