Periodic Table -> Sodium
Sodium DetailsSodium Symbol:
NaSodium Atomic Number:
11Sodium Atomic Weight:
22.9898What is Sodium?
(atomic number 11, symbol Na) is a metal and a chemical element that was discovered in 1807 by the Cornish inventor and chemist Humphry Davy. It occurs in sodium salts and minerals, including rock salt, sodalite, and feldspars.
This metal has a relatively low melting point and is reactive and soft. It is a good electrical conductor with a silvery color. There are three isotopes and different compounds such as carbonates, nitrates, sulfates, and halides. Sodium also forms organosodium compounds, solides, and electrides. The element reacts with metallic halides, hydrogen, ammonia, and water. When reacting with ice, snow, and water, it forms hydrogen and sodium hydroxide.
There are different commercial applications, but it is mostly used to produce triphenylphosphine, indigo, and sodium azide and borohydride. Azide, for example, is used for inorganic and organic synthesis and to produce airplane escape chutes and car airbags. It is also a biocide and preservative and inhibits the growth of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. The element is also added to alloys and used to process molten metals and to descal metals. It is also used to produce sodium vapor lamps and soaps. Sodium carbonate, for example, is an additive that is used as a stabilizer and raising and anti-caking agent. It has other applications as well and is used in the cotton and brick industries. Sodium carbonate is used to treat cottonseed, extrude clay, and form compounds such as zinc, aluminum, and iron(II) carbonate. The element itself is used for different tests such as the sodium fusion test and Birch reduction, which was reported in 1944 by the Australian chemist Arthur Birch. Sodium carbonate is used to purify water while its hydroxide reduces clogging. One of its compounds, hydrogen carbonate is used to produce cleansers and soaps and in the leather and clothing industries.
Occurrence and Health and Environmental Effects
Sodium is found in nature in the form of salts such as sodium sulfate, nitrate, borate, carbonate, and chloride. It is found in spring water, alkaline and salty lakes, and seawater. Sodium is also important for proper nutrition and good muscle and nerve functioning. However, excessive sodium intake can cause hypertension and kidney problems. Foods with a high sodium content include bacon, salad dressings, pickles, cheese, salted nuts, and instant soups. Sodium deficiency, on the other hand, leads to muscle cramps and spasms, cognitive impairment, confusion, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, and others. Sodium is also important for plants and other species. It plays a role in chlorophyll synthesis and metabolism. There are health hazards as well. When sodium reacts with water, fumes are formed that can cause throat, nose, eye, and skin irritation. Coughing and sneezing are other side effects. Elemental sodium must be handled with care because it forms a hydroxide which is caustic. It reacts with oxides, acidic oxides, and acids. At the same time sodium hydroxide has many commercial applications and is used in cleaning solutions, the food industry, and chemical pulping. Interestingly, it is also used for chemical peeling of vegetables and fruits, in cocoa processing and chocolate production, thickening of ice cream, production of soft drinks and colorings, as well as poultry scalding. As a cleaning agent, it is used to remove protein-based and fat deposits as well as oil and grease stains. The Chinese noodles and German pretzels also contain small amounts. In the past, the compound was used to identify whether carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred. Other methods are used today, including CO-oximeters.
While sodium is important for health and has many applications, long-term exposure can lead to chemical bronchitis, difficulty breeding, caustic and thermal burns, tingling, and itching. These side effects occur as a result of overexposure. Permanent damages occur in severe cases. In a powdered form, sodium is toxic in combination with other substances. It is an environmental hazard when released in water bodies.
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