Sodium chlorite is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula NaClO2. It is a white crystalline powder that is soluble in water and forms a strong, highly oxidizing solution when dissolved. Sodium chlorite is commonly used as a bleach, disinfectant, and oxygen source in industrial applications, as well as in food preservation, water treatment, and in some medical applications. Sodium chlorite solutions are reactive and can be hazardous if not handled properly.
The main use of sodium chlorite is the generation of chlorine dioxide for bleaching and stripping of textiles, pulp, and paper. It is also used for disinfecting water used to wash fruits, vegetables, and poultry. Sodium chlorite is also a component in therapeutic rinses, mouthwashes, toothpastes, eye drops, and contact lens cleaning solution. Additionally, it is used for sanitizing air ducts, HVAC/R systems, and animal containment areas. Sodium chlorite is also used as a reagent in organic synthesis and as an oxidizing agent. Acidified sodium chlorite is used for the sanitation of food and as a teat dip for dairy cattle. Finally, sodium chlorite has been used in public crises such as the decontamination of hazardous materials teams in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sodium chlorite is considered a hazardous chemical and must be handled with care. Inhalation of its dust or fumes can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as coughing and difficulty breathing. Direct skin contact with sodium chlorite can cause irritation, redness, and pain. Ingestion of sodium chlorite can cause digestive discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is important to wear protective clothing and equipment, such as gloves and eye protection, when handling sodium chlorite. Additionally, it should be stored in a well-ventilated area, away from heat sources and flammable materials.