Potassium nitrate is one of the useful chemicals in modern-day implements such as fertilizers, soaps, toothpastes, explosives, pyrotechnics and even the emerging biofuels that is currently gaining ground as an answer to the world’s environmental problems. However, despite its numerous benefits, this chemical substance can be hazardous and can wreak havoc on human health if handled improperly. As with other dangerous chemicals, handling this compound should incorporate utmost knowledge and safety to minimize the health risks it may bring. Here are some of the possible health hazards and some tips on how to avoid them.
Potassium nitrate could be dangerous if its vapors are inhaled. Such vapors can be present when the chemical compound is exposed to combustion, such as in the case of pyrotechnics, fireworks or even lighting matches. Inhalation of the vapors may cause coughing fits, difficulty and shortness of breathing, nasal irritation, sore throat and inflammation of the respiratory tract.
It is best to avoid exposure to the vapors completely to be free from such respiratory ailments. However, in cases where exposure cannot be avoided, the next best thing is to have appropriate safety gear such as face masks that inhibit entry of vapors to the user’s nasal area. It could be in the form of gas masks which is more apt for heavier, industrial-grade exposure, but an inexpensive mask that can be bought in pharmacies can be adequate enough to filter out the chemical’s emissions.
Working with this compound can also make the eyes and skin prone to contact. Contact with potassium nitrate with the skin and eyes will likewise cause pain and irritation, swelling and redness. Be sure to wear gloves and appropriate safety clothes when the job calls for exposure to this chemical. Should eye and skin contact occur, immediately wash the affected area with clean water. Flush the eyes immediately with cool, clean water and contact a physician immediately. You can also apply first-aid solutions such as medicinal eye drops upon advice by a health professional while waiting for medical assistance to arrive in order to mitigate the pain and irritation.
Potassium nitrate is also very dangerous if ingested. It could upset the gastrointestinal tract and will cause vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. Again, it is best to contact a poison expert or professional medical help to save the patient. The doctor may advise to induce vomiting to let the toxins out of the system, depending on the gravity of the case.
The most dangerous exposure to potassium nitrate is prolonged, continuous exposure. This causes long-term medical ailments affecting the stomach, as well as will cause irregular heartbeat, breathing difficulties, convulsions, comatose, and even death. With such dangers of being exposed to this chemical, the importance of safety gear especially when working with it on an industrial level cannot be overemphasized. The right safety gear, together with the proper training and knowledge will be the only way to reap the benefits of potassium nitrate and negating its health hazards.