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An overall view of sodium hypochlorite and its importance.

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An Everyday Chemical - Sodium Hypochlorite Bleach By Catherine Graham (word count 1144) Introduction An overall view of sodium hypochlorite and its importance Sodium hypochlorite is best known as the active ingredient in household bleach. The French chemist Berthollet discovered sodium hypochlorite in 1787. Its ability to effectively whiten textiles was quickly discovered and put to commercial use with great success. By the end of the nineteenth century Louis Pasteur had discovered the effectiveness of sodium hypochlorite against disease causing bacteria and it soon became widely used as a disinfectant. Details of the raw materials needed to make hypochlorite bleach and where they come from Sodium hypochlorite is produced by reacting chlorine with sodium hydroxide (caustic soda). These raw materials are produced from the electrolysis of brine (salt water). Therefore, a manufacturing plant requires only common salt (NaCl), which is mined here in the UK, and water. The electrolysis process causes the solution to break down into sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), chlorine and hydrogen:- 2NaCl + 2H2O ? 2NaOH + Cl2 + H2 Brief outline of the process used to manufacture sodium hypochlorite By reacting sodium hydroxide with chlorine, sodium hypochlorite, sodium chloride and water is produced:- Cl2 + 2NaOH ? ...read more.


Coli. By following good hygiene practices, hypochlorite bleach has been shown to be the most effective means of minimising these dangers. It is also very effective in the removal of mold and mildew. In hospitals and other health care facilities sodium hypochlorite is used to disinfect surfaces against HIV and Hepatitis B. In fact many authorities specifically promote such practices. It has been used by NASA to assure destruction of any potentially harmful organisms introduced from space missions. Industrial applications of sodium hypochlorite include: > The control of algae in open reservoirs > The treatment of sewerage to reduce odours and increase the digesting efficiency of bacteria > Chemical toilets and industrial wastes for odour control > Cyanide waste treatment in metal finishing > Treatment for cyanide effluent in gold mining > Air scrubbing > Food processing: dairy equipment sanitising, fruit and vegetable processing, mushroom production, meat production, fish processing > Precious metal recovery > Cooling water and boiler water treatment to prevent fouling Details of any pollution / environmental problems associated with the use or production During recent years there has been a concerted effort to investigate and assess the human and environmental safety aspects of sodium hypochlorite. ...read more.


Inhalation of chlorine gas produced when sodium hypochlorite is mixed with acid or ammonia will induce coughing, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, wheezing, throat and nasal irritation. With treatment though, these symptoms normally subside within a short amount of time. Eye exposure to household bleach is painful and may cause blurred vision or temporary blindness. These symptoms normally disappear if the eye is immediately flushed with large amounts of water. If this action is delayed the reaction is more severe but again normal vision should return within a couple of days. The overall safety of sodium hypochlorite is further documented by reports from poison control centres in North America and Europe, which show no major health effects after unintentional ingestion or skin contact. (http://www.esemag.com/0596/bleach.html). Conclusion Studies by numerous independent research institutes have supported the high level of disinfection effectiveness of sodium hypochlorite. It is recognised as being the most effective disinfectant against virtually all known bacteria, fungi and viruses. History is a good indicator of the problems we would still be incurring today without its discovery. Diseases would spread much more easily resulting in higher infant mortality, livestock loss, water contamination and crop contamination to name a few. We can therefore conclude that sodium hypochlorite is an extremely versatile and important product in the modern world. ...read more.

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