Sodium nitrite (NaNO2) is a chemical compound commonly used in fertilizers, food preservatives, smoke bombs, as a color fixative, dyes and pyrotechnics. Sodium nitrite is highly toxic, flammable and a strong oxidant. It appears as small, yellow or white crystals, and is classified by the EU as an oxidant (O), toxic (T) and dangerous for the environment (N).
Sodium nitrite is commonly used in the food industry as a stabilizer and an additive. It has antimicrobial properties that inhibit the growth of harmful pathogens and disease-causing bacteria. Sodium nitrite is used to preserve fish and meats, such as hot dogs, smoked fish and luncheon meats. It prevents meat from developing botulism, which is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum in food. The Food and Drug Agency limits the use of sodium nitrite to 200 parts per million in food products in the United States.
A study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute revealed that low concentrations of sodium nitrite can be used to treat diseases. Therapy based on long-term doses of low-concentration sodium nitrite has restored blood flow in the hind limbs of mice, as reported in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." The same research suggests that low levels of dietary sodium nitrite in combination with sodium nitrate can heal cardiovascular conditions by strengthening or repairing damaged blood vessels.
Pigments and Dyes
Sodium nitrite is used as a bleaching and dyeing agent. It is used to make basic dye, acid dye, direct dye, sulfur dye, diazo and azoic dyes. Sodium nitrite dye irritates the respiratory system, eyes and skin, and should be handled with care. Its ingestion is toxic, and sodium nitrite can prove to be an explosion hazard if heated with a flammable material.
Other uses of sodium nitrite include the manufacture of herbicides, organic insecticides, decaling of cast iron and steel, as an inhibitor of polymer, anti-freeze liquids, lubricants, rubber-processing, pulp-and-paper industries, industrial and household cleaners, and as a raw material in the production of products such as caffeine and saccharine.
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