Government Makes Standards For Caustic Soda Mandatory

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Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers Ananth Kumar announced that Government will make revised quality standards for Caustic Soda mandatory for both domestic manufacturers as well as for imports. This step has been taken to give a boost to the domestic industry.

The revised quality standards, compliant with Bureau of India Standards (BIS) specifications, would necessitate the industry to produce caustic soda using the modern and more energy efficient membrane based technology.

Mandating compliance to revised BIS specifications will allow superior grade caustic soda to be produced and imported in the country which would be beneficial to human health and environment.

Before adoption of latest energy efficient membrane cell technology, Caustic soda was produced using an outdated mercury based technology which led to ingress of mercury in the final product which could be harmful to health and environment.

Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye and caustic soda, is an inorganic compound with formula NaOH. It is a white solid ionic compound consisting of sodium cations Na+ and hydroxide anions OH−.

Sodium hydroxide is a highly caustic base and alkali that decomposes proteins at ordinary ambient temperatures and may cause severe chemical burns. It is highly soluble in water and readily absorbs moisture and carbon dioxide from the air. It forms a series of hydrates NaOH·nH2O.

The monohydrate NaOH·H2O cystallizes from water solutions between 12.3 and 61.8°C. The commercially available “sodium hydroxide” is often this monohydrate, and published data may refer to it instead of the anhydrous compound.

Sodium hydroxide is used in many industries in the manufacture of pulp and paper, textiles, drinking water, soaps and detergents and as a drain cleaner. Worldwide production in 2004 was approximately 60 million tonnes, while demand was 51 million tonnes.

Food uses of sodium hydroxide include washing or chemical peeling of fruits and vegetables, chocolate and cocoa processing, caramel coloring production, poultry scalding, soft drink processing, and thickening ice cream.

Olives are often soaked in sodium hydroxide for softening; Pretzels and German lye rolls are glazed with a sodium hydroxide solution before baking to make them crisp. Owing to the difficulty in obtaining food grade sodium hydroxide in small quantities for home use, sodium carbonate is often used in place of sodium hydroxide.

Sodium hydroxide is frequently used as an industrial cleaning agent where it is often called “caustic”. It is added to water, heated, and then used to clean process equipment, storage tanks, etc. It can dissolve grease, oils, fats and protein-based deposits. It is also used for cleaning waste discharge pipes under sinks and drains in domestic properties.

Surfactants can be added to the sodium hydroxide solution in order to stabilize dissolved substances and thus prevent redeposition. A sodium hydroxide soak solution is used as a powerful degreaser on stainless steel and glass bakeware. It is also a common ingredient in oven cleaners.

A common use of sodium hydroxide is in the production of parts washer detergents. Parts washer detergents based on sodium hydroxide are some of the most aggressive parts washer cleaning chemicals. The sodium hydroxide-based detergents include surfactants, rust inhibitors and defoamers. A parts washer heats water and the detergent in a closed cabinet and then sprays the heated sodium hydroxide and hot water at pressure against dirty parts for degreasing applications.

Sodium hydroxide is sometimes used during water purification to raise the pH of water supplies. Increased pH makes the water less corrosive to plumbing and reduces the amount of lead, copper and other toxic metals that can dissolve into drinking water.

Sodium hydroxide has been used for detection of carbon monoxide poisoning, with blood samples of such patients turning to a vermilion color upon the addition of a few drops of sodium hydroxide. Today, carbon monoxide poisoning can be detected by CO oximetry.

Sodium hydroxide is used in some cement mix plasticisers. This helps homogenise cement mixes, preventing segregation of sands and cement, decreases the amount of water required in a mix and increases workability of the cement product, be it mortar, render or concrete.

Sodium hydroxide is traditionally used in soap making (cold process soap, saponification). It was made in the nineteenth century for a hard surface rather than liquid product because it was easier to store and transport.

Sodium hydroxide is also widely used in pulping of wood for making paper or regenerated fibers.

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