Sodium chloride, also known as Halite (chemical formula: NaCl), is the chemical that we would all know more commonly as salt. It appears as a white crystalline powder that is completely soluble in water.
It is one of the most plentiful minerals on Earth and is an essential nutrient for humans, animals and plants.
Sodium chloride has a variety of uses in both domestic and commercial settings.
In the home, it is of course used to season food, but also to preserve food.
Medically, sodium chloride is combined with water to create a saline solution which can be used in a range of ways including; an IV drip to alleviate dehydration and topically to cleanse wounds to name a few.
Sodium chloride is also used as a component when manufacturing a range of products including; plastic, paper, rubber, glass, chlorine, polyester, bleach, detergents and dyes.
Sodium chloride is generally regarded as a safe chemical to handle, but with all chemicals (even salt), there is always the potential for harm when improperly handled.
The routes of exposure for sodium chloride include; eye, skin, inhalation and ingestion.
Eye exposure to sodium chloride may cause serious eye irritation and temporary damage to the eye. Repeated exposure can cause inflammation and redness as well as temporary vision impairment.
Sodium chloride may produce mild skin irritation when exposed to the skin. When exposed to the skin for a prolonged period, the skin can become red and swell, possibly progressing to blistering, scaling and thickening of the skin.
Inhalation of sodium chloride may cause irritation to the respiratory system. Sodium chloride vapours may cause drowsiness, dizziness, reduced alertness, loss of reflexes/coordination and vertigo. If individuals have existing compromised circulatory and nervous systems or kidney damage, it is important they have proper checks prior to handling, to ensure their condition is not worsened due to exposure.
Sodium chloride is obviously produced to be ingested for human consumption, however consuming very large amounts may cause vomiting, diarrhoea and an extreme feeling of weakness.
If sodium chloride comes into contact with the eyes, flush the eyes out immediately with fresh running water, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Removal of contact lenses should only be done by a skilled individual. Seek medical attention if pain persists.
If skin exposure occurs, remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and cleanse the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Contaminated clothing should be washed prior to wearing again. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist.
If inhaled, remove the person from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source and monitor their breathing. If they find breathing difficult, give them oxygen. If they are not breathing and you are qualified, perform CPR. Seek medical attention without delay.
If you have swallowed a large amount of sodium chloride, do not induce vomiting. If vomiting occurs, lean the patient forward, or place them on their left side to ensure their airways remain open to prevent aspiration. Seek medical attention.
Emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical and there should always be adequate ventilation (install exhaust if necessary).
PPE including; safety glasses with side shields, dust respirators, chemical goggles, protective gloves, a PVC apron and overalls are recommended when handling sodium chloride.