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Dangers of Sodium Metabisulfite

by
author image Robin Wasserman
Robin Wasserman has been writing and prosecuting biochemical patents since 1998. She has served as a biochemical patent agent and a research scientist for a gene-therapy company. Wasserman earned her Doctor of Philosophy in biochemistry and molecular biology, graduating from Harvard University in 1995.
Dangers of Sodium Metabisulfite
Sodium metabisulfite is used in wine making.

You've probably encountered many products containing sodium metabisulfite without even realizing it. Sodium metabisulfite preserves food and is used extensively in commercial wine making. It is a bleaching agent in the textile, pulp and paper industries. It is also used in the chemical, pharmaceutical, film and photographic industries, and even in water and sewage treatment plants. However, pure sodium metabisulfite can be quite hazardous.

Inhalation

Sodium metabisulfite may cause respiratory problems.
Sodium metabisulfite may cause respiratory problems.

Inhalation of sodium metabisulfite irritates your respiratory tract. Symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath. In some individuals, sodium metabisulfite may cause an allergic, asthma-type reaction.

Ingestion

Sodium metabisulfite can cause gastrointestinal problems.
Sodium metabisulfite can cause gastrointestinal problems.

Ingesting pure sodium metabisulfite irritates your gastrointestinal system as it reacts with acid in your stomach by releasing sulfurous acid. Ingesting high amounts may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, circulatory disturbance and central nervous system depression. A fatal dose is estimate to be 10 g for the average adult.

Skin Contact

Sodium metabisulfite can cause skin irritation
Sodium metabisulfite can cause skin irritation

When placed in direct contact, pure sodium metabisulfite can irritate skin causing redness, itching and pain.

Eye Contact

Sodium metabisulfite can irritate eyes.
Sodium metabisulfite can irritate eyes.

Similar to skin irritation, direct contact of sodium metabisulfite with your eyes can cause irritation, pain, stinging, tearing, redness, swelling, corneal damage and blindness. These effects may be irreversible.

Allergic Reactions

Sodium metabisulfite can cause allergic reactions.
Sodium metabisulfite can cause allergic reactions.

Sodium metabisulfite causes extreme allergic reactions in certain sulfite-sensitive individuals, resulting in broncho constriction, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, gastrointestinal disturbances, rapid swelling of the skin, flushing, tingling sensations and shock.

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