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Sodium polyacrylate is a non-toxic chemical used in a variety of common products, from diapers to fake snow. It is known for its superior absorbency. However, it can pose certain dangers if not handled properly. Be sure to take notes of the following hazards and take precautions to avoid any injury or mishaps when handling sodium polyacrylate.
Potential Health Hazards
Be aware of certain health hazards that can be caused by sodium polyacrylate. The chemical, though non-toxic, can cause mild to severe skin and eye irritation if contacted in its powdered form. If the powder is inhaled it can also irritate the lungs, though this would only come as a result of prolonged exposure to the dust. It is mildly hazardous if ingested but cannot be fatal unless swallowed in extremely large quantities. If ingested, it may irritate mucus membranes. There is also some concern that sodium polyacrylate in disposal diapers may irritate some infants.
Potential Environmental Hazards
Be careful when using sodium polyacrylate in household and workplace settings. When the chemical comes in contact with a large amount of spilled water in an area, it can cause the area to become very slippery. Also, if the chemical enters sewer or drainage systems in large quantities, it can cause serious clogging and should be dealt with immediately. It can be disposed of safely in regular garbage containers as it can biodegrade and releases no harmful byproducts upon chemical breakdown.
Preventions and Solutions to Hazards
If contact is made with skin, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. If it gets in the eyes, flush them out thoroughly with water. Do not induce vomiting if swallowed; simply rinse the mouth out a few times until the product is fully removed. Wear protective clothing, such as gloves and goggles, when handling the product. Use it in a ventilated area and keep the chemical in a secure storage container. Always seek medical advice if further problems arise. If a large amount of dry sodium polyacrylate is spilled, sweep it up or vacuum it and return it to a storage container or dispose of it in the garbage. No liquid should be allowed to touch the product. However, if a spill occurs and the chemical meets a liquid, then it is advised to add more of the chemical or another absorbent material to make cleanup easier. Lastly, if the chemical enters sewers or drainage systems, contact local water authorities for advice.